New Microsemi Adaptec Smart Storage Adapter SAS3 Controllers Launched

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Microsemi Adaptec Smart Adapters
Microsemi Adaptec Smart Adapters

While there is a ton of focus in the industry surrounding NVMe, as there should be, the SAS3 and SATA markets are still strong. Bulk storage still ends up on the low cost/ capacity that disk offers and therefore we see a continued demand for SAS3 and SATA HBAs as well as RAID controllers. With this background, we have the new Microsemi Adaptec Smart Storage Adapters. 

Market Context

Perhaps the most interesting part of our briefing with Microsemi, aside from the new adapters, was the market segmentation information. In terms of server volumes, Microsemi’s view is that about half of the market is going to be to the hyperscale customers. That has a direct impact on product roadmaps.

Microsemi Server Volume By Type Q4 2017
Microsemi Server Volume By Type Q4 2017

The next question is what types of servers are being deployed. Here we see that the growth story is NVMe, which is why it gets press. SATA and SAS SSDs are being squeezed and disk is about flat relying upon capacity gains.

Microsemi Drive Type Market Share Q4 2017
Microsemi Drive Type Market Share Q4 2017

At STH, this is why we are focusing on NVMe technologies, but it is an important backdrop on where we are in the industry.

We asked about the RAID controller to HBA mix and validated our assumption that the cloud hosting providers are generally focused on HBA class devices. Those tend to be favored for software RAID applications as well as clustered storage applications where redundancy is handled in software.

The New Microsemi Adaptec Smart Storage Adapter Line

There are three new adapter lines from Microsemi. The Adaptec HBA 1100 is designed for basic connectivity of storage devices to machines. Slightly more advanced is the Microsemi Adaptec SmartHBA 2100 family which also offers zero cache RAID capabilities. Finally, the Microsemi Adaptec SmartRAID 3100 family is the traditional RAID solution. Microsemi points out the unified stack and the fact that they have moved to 28nm for low power operation versus the competition. Competition is Broadcom/ LSI in this market.

Microsemi Adaptec Smart Adapter Stacks Q4 2017
Microsemi Adaptec Smart Adapter Stacks Q4 2017

Servicing the three product lines, Microsemi essentially has both RAID silicon as well as HBA silicon and then enables features based on the different product line variants. We covered the launch of these two silicon variants in our Microsemi SmartROC 3100 and SmartIOC 2100 Launched piece.

Microsemi Adaptec HBA 1100 Overview

There are a total of seven launch SKUs ranging from 4 to 24 ports. We asked and even the 24 port versions are all serviced by the HBA silicon and do not have an additional SAS expander onboard, a design popular in high port count Adaptec controllers several generations ago.

Microsemi Adaptec HBA 1100 Family
Microsemi Adaptec HBA 1100 Family

Microsemi notes that they have optimizations for host managed SMR functionality and that their new generation offers better performance. With disk, performance is less of an issue. With SSDs, older-generation RAID controllers would be the bottleneck in SSD performance.

Microsemi Adaptec SmartHBA 2100 Family

If all you need is RAID 1, for example for mirrored boot devices, but also want a HBA for the remainder of your drives, the Microsemi Adaptec SmartHBA 2100 family is the level you are looking for:

Microsemi Adaptec SmartHBA 2100 Family
Microsemi Adaptec SmartHBA 2100 Family

Although we see RAID 5, we generally do not recommend using RAID 5 without a flash-backed write cache for performance reasons. The SmartHBA 2100 series adapters also allow mixed mode with RAID for some of the drives while others are passed through as HBA devices.

Microsemi Adaptec SmartRAID 3100 Family

If you are looking for a traditional RAID controller, the Microsemi Adaptec SmartRAID 3100 family has you covered with 10 SKUs:

Microsemi Adaptec SmartRAID 3100 Family
Microsemi Adaptec SmartRAID 3100 Family

Here one gets the flashed-backed write cache with the supercap attached to the controller. Features like maxCache 4.0 are intended to improve the performance of hard drive arrays by caching on higher performance storage. The adapters scale to use up to 4GB of cache which is a major step forward. More cache allows algorithms to store more data in cache which in turn increases performance.

Final Words

We used the previous generation HBA 1000-8i parts in a few ZFS on Linux builds and they have worked well thus far to the point where we would try these new adapters. In the IT industry, Adaptec has been around for a long time. There are many IT managers who swear by the Adaptec brand so they will be excited to see new adapters. One other feature that Microsemi can tout is a unified management stack and a feature stack that builds with each product segment. By adding new features with each incremental product, and keeping the management plane unified, Microsemi can span a wide range of storage deployment scenarios using a common set of features. To IT managers dealing with different types of storage, this unified approach is extremely appealing.

Microsemi Adaptec Smart Adapter Stack Features Q4 2017
Microsemi Adaptec Smart Adapter Stack Features Q4 2017

6 COMMENTS

  1. I would like to see a performance test of the 12G Microsemi 3100 (Adaptec IC) series RAID controller compared to the 12G Areca 1883ix (LSI/Broadcom IC) series RAID controllers using the maximum size cache. I do not see on the list of features, the ability to configure one controller as a master and a second controller as a slave and feature I wish was included with the Areca series since I have two 1883ix-24 operating in parallel, one controller attached to a 12G, 4i-28e expander the other controller attached to a 12G, 4i28e expander and a 6G 8i28e expander, that do not have the ability to operate in redundant mode (with or without expanders attached). If I recall correct, the previous 6G version of the 8e24i LSI controller, when attached to a pair of external expanders (one expander per controller) could be configured to function in a redundant mode by crossing over a pair of ext 6G SAS cables between controller’s 1 and 2 via the attached expander’s 1 and 2, e.g. [Controller 1 >ext SAS cable> Expander 1], [Controller 1 >ext SAS cable> Expander 2], [Controller 2 >ext SAS cable> Expander 2], [Controller 2 >ext SAS cable> Expander 1]. From such configuration, RAID Vols. attached to either RAID expander have a redundant (mirror) RAID controller resulting in a graceful failure mode of the system should either RAID controller fail, just like a RAID 1 or RAID 10 Vol. losing a drive, yet continue to function until repaired, having no single point failure.

  2. Correction, the two external 12G expanders, one an Adaptec the other relabeled as Intel, are both 8i28e.

  3. Pretty disappointed that they didn’t include the additional 2x SATA ports that are available on their 16/24-port controllers on their new adapters. Most 16/24-chassis have two additional internal/rear disk slots for boot drives.

  4. Any information on power dissipation? Surprisingly, these figures are absent from all of the manufacturer’s documentation. Specifications for previous generation products always stated typical power dissipation.

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