Today we have the release of the Microchip Microsemi Adaptec SmartRAID 3162-8i RAID adapters. We are purposefully calling these “Microchip Microsemi Adaptec” since it shows the lineage of the products. Adaptec has been in the RAID controller industry for what may seem like eons, relatively speaking. Founded in 1981, Adaptec became one of the early movers in the RAID industry. Adaptec was purchased by PMC-Sierra, which also purchased HP(E) Smart Array IP. PMC-Sierra was purchased by Microsemi. Most recently Microchip purchased Microsemi. 37 years later, and through three recent acquisitions, we have a new Adaptec SmartRAID 3162 adapter series.
Microchip Microsemi Adaptec SmartRAID 3162-8i RAID Adapters
The Microchip Microsemi Adaptec SmartRAID 3162-8i at its heart is an 8-port SAS3 12.0Gbps RAID controller. There are two major innovations in this generation. First, is that the new SmartRAID 3162-8i offers an integrated super capacitor onboard, even in the low-profile form factor. The /e variant includes a line rate controller based encryption (CBE) solution the company calls maxCrypto.
- Some of the key specs:
- PCIe Gen3 x8 low profile design
- 8-port SAS3 via dual SFF-8643 ports
- 2GB DDR4-2100 onboard DRAM
- 1.45M 4K random read IOPS
- Onboard super capacitor
- MaxCrypto on the /e part
We asked why we are seeing only an 8-port variant. The answer was that due to space constraints, only two SFF-8643 ports would fit still including the supercap in an LP card.
The Zero Maintenance Cache Protection (ZMCP) essentially means that one can use the onboard DRAM as a write cache. In the event power is lost, the supercap keeps the relevant circuitry alive. During this process, contents of DRAM are dumped to NAND (MLC we are told) so that in the event of a power failure, data is protected.
The supercap is a big deal. In this generation, it can fit onboard and it also does not need the same replacement schedule as a standard battery solution.
We recently had a piece on what happens with traditional battery back up units (BBUs.) The results of longer-term deployments can get scary as we recently highlighted in RAID Controller Batteries Time Bombs You Need to Replace.
To say that we are now ZMCP proponents after seeing a battery bulge like that would be an understatement.
Microchip Microsemi Adaptec MaxCrypto
When you look at the Adaptec SmartRAID 3162-8i /e one has the addition of Controller-based Encryption or CBE. Microchip Microsemi Adaptec feels that this solution is superior to simple Self-Encrypting Drives (SEDs) or software cyptography.
The key benefits are security and flexibility and that the offload happens at the RAID controller level, not using CPU resources.
MaxCrypto includes CBE key management for organizations to manage keys. That means in the event of a controller failure, an administrator can use the master key passphrase and re-initialize the secure array on a new controller.
In most cases Microchip Microsemi Adaptec SmartRAID 3162-8i /e adapters are able to handle this encryption with essentially no performance loss due to the cards crypto engine.
The company still offers encryption as an option both for users who may not want to utilize CBE and for those markets where it cannot offer the technology.
It is still early days in the Microchip Microsemi integration. We hope that the company streamlines the name. Still, Adaptec is one of the most powerful brand names in RAID storage which still has droves of IT admins who swear by the product. The ServeRAID 316-8i will be popular for that reason. We are strongly advocating that if you do utilize a RAID controller, you use one with a supercap to prevent battery-related problems.
Fun fact, in the first week of STH’s history dating back to 2009, Adaptec was in two of the three posts on the site when it was a personal blog. This is well before it became the world’s largest server review site. STH started as a project to quickly document storage performance using RAID cards, using Adaptec 3000 series adapters. Nine years later, and three acquisitions for Adaptec later, the company is still innovating with leading products like the SmartRAID 3162-8i.