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XFX Revo64 RAID 3 Controller Review

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: XFX
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Features


NetCell, SyncRAID, and XFX's Revo64


NetCell is a relatively young company that has been making many in-roads in the storage industry with partnerships with companies like XFX and PNY who are offering products based on NetCell's SPUs. NetCell's storage controllers, branded "Revolution", feature unique SyncRAID technology that is completely hardware implemented and driverless. This makes NetCell's technology ideal as a cross-platform storage controller (no need for drivers on Mac, Linux, or Windows!) and immensely useful in storage appliances.


Let's take a look at the specifications and features of the XFX Revo64:



  • Embedded RISC CPU that manages internal 64-bit data paths to deliver up to 6Gbps (800Mbytes/s) on-chip data rates

  • Patented SyncRAID™ technology provides 100% hardware RAID acceleration

  • 'On-the-fly' XOR calculation

  • Enables completely driverless solutions for plug and play designs

  • Three ATA-100 channels using SATA interface

  • RAID 0, 1, 3 and JBOD configurations

  • Integrated SDRAM controller for L2 drive cache configurations up to 512Mbytes external SDRAM

  • PCI 2.2 32 bit/ 33 MHz, 32 bit/ 66 Mhz or 64 bit/66 MHz interface

Let's break this down...


"SyncRAID" - 100% hardware RAID implementation means your CPU is free from all the logic required to create parity (aka "backup") data on the fly, and synchronizing data transfers.


"On-the-fly" XOR calculation - XOR operations are used in RAID to create parity information from which the hardware can use to recover lost data. For example, D1 and D2 represent data written to disks 1 and 2. Performing "D1 XOR D2" yields parity data P. In the event D2 ever gets lost, "D1 XOR P" will give you D2 thus effectively recovering the lost D2 information. The same goes if D1 or P is ever lost.


"Driverless" - Exactly as this feature suggests... drivers are not required in order to get the hardware to function. As we will investigate shortly, installation of the Revo64 is very painless.


"ATA-100" - The NC3000 SPU was originally designed for ATA-100 drives, which that even though SATA can be used with the Revo64, it will only function at ATA100 speeds, not the full 150MB/s or 300MB/s which SATA is capable of. We will investigate this further.



"RAID 0, 1, 3, and JBOD" - Those of you who have used RAID will probably be familiar with RAID 0 and RAID 1, but not necessarily RAID 3. RAID 3 is "Striped with a parity disk" which makes it a little different from RAID 5 in that all parity data in stored on a dedicated disk and that data can be read in a striped manner like RAID 0. Unlike RAID 0, if a single disk fails in RAID 3 you don't lose the data in your array.


"Integrated SDRAM controller" - Integrated SDRAM means more efficient use of the bus as data is cached from the attached drives before being transferred.


"PCI 2.2" - The Revo64 supports your standard PCI bus at 32bits / 66MHz and 64bits / 66MHz (aka. PCI-Pro). Theoretically PCI Pro should yield much faster results than the standard 32bit found on consumer desktops.

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