With all the PCI Express 3.0 capable motherboards being released lately both on the Intel Xeon E5 and Xeon E3 series sides, it’s time to use all that available bandwidth. The popularity of using SSD’s in RAID 0, RAID 1 and RAID 10 to give high throughput has meant that the PCIe 2.x bus got saturated with data very quickly, especially since even consumer SSDs can push 550MB/s each. With the latest Intel Xeon E5 and E3 generations, the PCIe 3.0 bus has been moved to the CPU providing a higher bandwidth, lower latency bus than the typical PCIe 2.0 x8 electrical buses that are mainstream in the server industry just a year ago. The new crop of LSI SAS 2308 HBA cards hope to fix the bandwidth issue with a bus that is effectively twice as fast as its predecessor and realistically shows better latency characteristics than the PCIe bus routed through the Intel 5500/ 5600 series northbridges. The new LSI 9207 and LSI 9217 HBA range, is based on the LSI SAS 2308 6Gb/s SAS and SATA controller (that is SAS II and SATA III for those wondering.)
LSI SAS 2308 Based SAS9207 and SAS9217 Features
- 8 internal or external 6Gb/s SAS + SATA ports
- 8 lanes, PCI Express 3.0
- Low profile form factor design
- Two total of x4 internal mini-SAS connectors (SFF8087) or external SFF-8088 connectors
- LSI SAS2308 6Gb/s SAS + SATA Controller
- Supports up to 256 SAS or SATA end devices
- Supports SSDs, Hard Drive and tape drives
Overall these are similar to the previous generation controllers based on the LSI SAS2008 6Gb/s SAS and SATA controllers. With that being said, the LSI SAS2308 6Gb/s SAS and SATA controller uses a 800Mhz CPU clock vs 533Mhz for the LSI SAS2008 6Gb/s SAS and SATA controllers. LSI has looked to made attaching connecters to the ports easier for it’s mini SAS internal ports, with cut outs where the connecters slot in to the port a nice touch, always welcome in cramped server chassis. The extra speed should see a little performance gain, but probably not worth upgrading if you already own a LSI SAS 2008 6Gb/s SAS + SATA based controller and are not bottlenecked by the PCIe 2.0 or 533MHz controller speeds.
LSI SAS 9207 and SAS 9217 HBAs
There are 5 new controllers in the lineup:
- LSI SAS9207-414e – This has both 4x internal and external mini SAS / SATA ports, no RAID support so can assume IT mode firmware is shipped
- LSI SAS9207-8i – This features 2×4 port internal mini SAS / SATA ports, both horizontally placed at back of card for better/shorter cable management, no RAID support so can assume IT mode firmware is shipped
- LSI SAS9207-8e – This replaces the LSI SAS9205 controller which does not support PCIe 3.0, it has 2×4 mini port external SAS / SATA ports, no RAID support so can assume IT mode firmware is shipped. The 9207-8e also supports up to 1024 SAS or SATA end devices so this card is meant to be used with large external SAS arrays
- LSI SAS9217-4i4e – This is the OEM version of the LSI SAS9207-4i4e, this looks to be flashed to IR mode as it’s capable of simple RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 1E and RAID 10, it has 1×4 internal and 1×4 external mini SAS / SATA ports.
- LSI SAS9217-8i – This is the OEM version of the LSI SAS9207-8i, it also looks to use IR mode firmware as it supports RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 1E and RAID 10, it has 2×4 internal mini SAS ports, looks identical to the LSI SAS9207-8i
Both the LSI 9217-4i4e and 9217-8i are listed as being OEM only versions, so if you want to purchase one of these you will have to look at cards from IBM, Intel, Dell, HP or others.
If you are buying for the first time and are requiring the absolute maximum speed from SSDs then this card is for you. Otherwise, especially if you are using the controller ports to run a traditional hard drive array, the trusty old IBM ServeRAID M1015 or newer IBM ServeRAID M1115 would do the job just as well and cost a whole heap less. My thoughts are wait for the new PCI Express 3.0 SAS / SATA 12Gbps controllers to come out then upgrade if you run older 6.0gbps controllers. One thing that will make this interesting is if there are OEM models by IBM, Intel and others that end up being similar cost to the current PCIe 2.1 parts. Can’t wait to get my hands on one to take for a spin.