Even though the number of desktops and servers is expected to hold steady or even shrink over the next few years, increased use of multicore processors and virtualization is likely to increase pressure on existing RAID arrays.
So it's no surprise that there's been a lot of action on the RAID controller front, with new hardware, software and appliances constantly hitting the streets. These systems will likely play an increasingly important role going forward since it will be a function of how data is managed into and out of the array, rather than the size of the array itself, that will drive performance. Robin Harris over at ZDnet offers up a good example in a recent blog describing how the size of data chunks across the disk stripes can make or break performance goals.
The good news is that there is certainly no shortage of options out there when it comes to new RAID controllers, most of which offer increased flexibility and interoperability to match well with even the most complicated environments.
Ciprico recently launched the new RAIDCore RC5000 line of SAS and SATA II RAID controllers, capable of delivering 1.1 GBps on only 16 SATA drives. It can also create virtual arrays of up to 32 drives using 4- to 16-port boards. It also supports PCI-X and PCI-E.
Another new system is the DeskRAID ACS-78100 from Accusys, which the company bills as the first hardware-based eSATA/SATA II controller to hit 3 Gbps. The unit offers an eSATA host interface that provides a 300 MBps pipeline and up to 1 GB DDR SDRAM. An online disk scrubbing feature detects and recovers bad sectors, while a disk cloning feature offers automated remote backup.
Over at Infortrend, the EONStor S16F-R1430 is a redundant controller subsystem featuring 16-bay, 4 Gb FC-to-SAS RAID arrays. The system is built on the company's ASIC400 engine to support SAS or SATA drives aimed at near-line backup environments. One unique aspect here is the ability to mix SAS and SATA drives within a single enclosure, allowing you to use SAS for mission-critical operations, reserving SATA for backup.
As with most things enterprise, however, upgrading RAID capabilities is of dubious value unless it's part of an overall architectural goal. And those goals need to be driven by overall business requirements to make sure you have the right tools to get you where you want to go.