PCIe Drive Array Board with Sil3124A Controller

PCIe Drive Array Board with Sil3124A Controller

Internal RAID Array Board for four SATA 2.5" Hard Drives or Solid State Drives

Quick Overview

Fully configurable PCI-X or PCIe board with choice of four:
  • - 2.5" SATA 7,200RPM HDDs
  • - 2.5" SATA SSDs
  • - Also available without drives

  • Total capacity of up to 4TB*

  • SATA II speeds up to 3Gb/s

  • Fits PCIe x4 or PCI-X slot

  • Small enough to fit 1U slot for industrial applications

  • Supports RAID 0,1,5 & JBOD

  • Supports SATA II Native Command Queuing & SATA 1.0 Tagged Command Queuing
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PCIe Drive Array board


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  • PCIe Drive Array fitted with 4 hard drives

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Apricorn now gives you the power to unlock the speed, capacity and performance of a four 2.5" SATA drives with its PCI Drive Array

The PCI Drive Array is a flexible, high performance array of four 2.5” SATA hard drives or solid state drives on your choice of a single PCIe x4 or PCI-X board.
Ideal for high performance applications such as design and image processing and fully configurable, the PCI Drive Array is capable of delivering sequential read speeds of up to 791 MB/sec, sequential write speeds of up to 675 MB/sec (actual SSD test results below).

Able to support four high performance hard drives or solid state drives on Apricorn's SATA PCIe Host Card, the PCI Drive Array’s unique form factor uses only one internal full length PCIe X4 slot, keeping the other slots and drive bays free for expansion. Fully configurable, the PCI Drive Array can be used singularly or for the ultimate boost - in tandem with a second or even third PCI Drive Array for even greater performance.

Using an Integrated Device Technology Tsi384 PCI express X4 to PCI-X 64-bit/133MHz bridge and the Silicon Image SiI3124A single chip host controller, the PCI Drive Array is capable of incorporating 4 embedded 2.5”, 5400/7200 RPM SATA hard drives or even faster solid state drives for total capacities of over 4TB*, making it a perfect fit for applications such as servers, industrial PCs, high speed data collection and storage systems that require maximum performance from their storage architecture.

The PCIe Drive Array is compatible with several systems and only uses one internal full length PCIe X4 slot; it fits perfectly in Apple’s Mac Pro system, server motherboards and is also small enough to fit in a 1U slot for industrial applications.

The PCI Drive Array contains drivers for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and Novell Netware operating systems for both RAID and non-RAID operations. The PCI Drive Array also includes configuration software and supports RAID 0 (striping), RAID 1 (mirroring), RAID 1+0 (mirrored stripe), and RAID 5 (parity stripe), as well as JBOD and concatenated volumes via the Silicon Image SATARaid™ RAID management utility.

Designed for optimum performance, the PCI Drive Array Supports SATA II Native Command Queuing & SATA 1.0 Tagged Command Queuing, ensuring that drives stay fully loaded with queued commands.

Average Read / Write Speed Comparison for Solid State vs Rotating Media

Target Applications
• Industrial PCs
• Fault tolerant applications
• High speed data collection
• Design applications
• Photo editing and retouching
• CAD/EDA simulation
• Scientific computing

High Performance Software Applications
Fully compatible with Mac and Windows 32-bit systems. Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere, Aperture, Photoshop, Lightroom, iMovie, iPhoto, ProTools, Sony Vegas, Avid Liquid etc.

1 terabyte (TB) = 1 trillion bytes = 1000 gigabytes
*4TB based on four 1TB 2.5” drive configuration. Accessible capacity will be less and actual capacity depends on the operating environment and formatting.
Data Transfer Rate SATA II speeds up to 3Gb/s
Buffersize 8MB
Interface PCIe | SATA II
Dimensions PCIe: 4.8” x 12.28” | PCI-X: 4.8" x 13.33"
Warranty 1 Year Limited
System Requirements PCIe x4 slot or PCI-X slot
2.5" SATA 5400RPM Hard Drives
2.5" SATA 7200RPM Hard Drives
2.5" SATA Solid State Drives

Rotating Media: 239 MB/sec
Solid State: 791 MB/sec

Rotating Media: 234 MB/sec
Solid State: 675 MB/sec

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PCIe Drive Array Datasheet
(Size: 421.08 KB)
PCIe Drive Array Quick Start Guide
(Size: 875.51 KB)
PCI-X Drive Array Quick Start Guide
(Size: 777.59 KB)
Apricorn End-User License Agreement
(Size: 48.27 KB)

Network World reviews the PCIe Drive Array

Apr 19, 2010 | Logan G. Harbaugh | Publication: Network World

Storage Smackdown: Hard Drives vs. SSDs

Apricorn sent us two of their boards, which consist of a 4x PCIe RAID controller with four mounts for 2.5 inch SATA drives. The drives can be either hard drives or SSDs.

Improving Disaster Recovery Solutions for Oracle and MS Exchange : Download nowOne of the boards had four 64GB consumer-grade MLC-based SSDs, two Samsung and two PQI drives. The other board had four 80GB Intel SSDSA2MH080G1GN 3Gbps SLC-based 2.5 inch SATA drives. The Intel drives, while more expensive, offered much higher performance and were much less affected by the "write cliff" effect.

Installing the boards was very straightforward, with just a driver to be installed after the board was installed. The board can be purchased separately for $199, which means that you don't have to buy drives from Apricorn – you can shop for the best deal. Since the drives are mounted directly on the controller, you don't need to find power connectors for the drives as you do with the Adaptec.

Additional links:

See how Apricorn Stacks Up
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Read Storage Smackdown: Hard Drives vs. SSDs

ZDNet Review - Apricorn's 4 TB hard card: PCI RAID array - Part 1

Aug 27, 2009 | Robin Harris | Publication: ZDNet

The folks over at Apricorn - a 26 year old company in SoCal - sent me their new PCIe Drive Array to review. A new video capture card requires higher bandwidth storage - over 100 MB/s sustained - so the timing was good.

You may recall the Plus HardCards that plugged into PC ISA slots. They were a convenient way to add drive capacity back when most systems weren’t wired for a second drive. Drive capacities today exceed what casual users need, decimating expansion drive demand. But for those with high capacity and/or bandwidth needs - such as video editors - some kind of an array or an SSD is a must. But if you are going to capture 4:4:4 HD video at 200+ MB/sec, you’re going to need a lot of capacity too. Which makes a disk-based solution more attractive - if it has the bandwidth.

Available in PCI and 4X PCI Express versions, and supporting SSDs as well as disks, the Drive Array can handle a lot of bandwidth.

The PCIe Drive Array

Physically the PeDA is a full-size PCIe card with 4 2.5″ SATA hard drives that cover the upper surface of the card. On the bottom there’s the Silicon Image chip and not much else.

WD’s new 12.5mm 1 TB drives are currently in qual. Those would take up 2 slots due to the extra thickness of those drives today - but imagine 4 TB of high performance storage in your system for less than $1,000. The card is so large it wouldn’t fit in a Mac Pro without removing the PCIe filler panel from the end of the card, installing it and then inserting the card. There may be a trick to mounting that I don’t know or it may be that my Mac Pro 1.1 is too crowded: 3 of the 4 slots were already occupied.

When restarted the PeDA showed up on the desktop as a single eSATA drive. Due to bugs in the Silicon Image software I used the Mac’s Disk Utility to configure the 4 drives as a AID 0 - there’s no redundancy so no “R” - and ran speed tests.

Running the numbers

Apricorn claims write speeds of 234 MB/sec and read speeds of 239 MB/sec with 4 7200 RPM notebook disks. The results of my testing were remarkably close to Apricorn’s numbers considering I used software RAID and a different benchmark tool.

The Blackmagic Design Intensity Pro video capture card requires higher than a single drive’s bandwidth for 4:2:2 - the numbers describe video color space - and their Blackmagic Disk Speed Test (BDST) utility tests storage bandwidth. It appears to load a 2 GB file into RAM and then read/write with large - 256KB? - blocks.

Using Disk Utility’s default 32KB chunk size in a 4 drive stripe BDST achieved 213.8 MB/sec on reads and 201.5 MB/sec on writes. In comparison, a 2/3rds full 1 TB WDC 7200 RPM Black achieved 102.9/102.7MB/sec, while a half full WD 10k VelociRaptor also topped out at 103.9 on writes.

How full a disk is relevant because Hard disks *do* get slower with use. This benchmark info is meant to give relative performance info only.

The popular Xbench utility came up with slightly different numbers for the 32KB 4 drive AID 0. Sequential 256KB block reads topped out at an anomalous 178 MB/sec with writes at 202 MB/sec. Xbench used a lot more CPU during its testing which might be related to the lower read speed.

The software AID overhead was about 15-20%. Single drive writes topped out at 62 MB/sec while 2, 3 & 4 drive writes grew to 101, 156 & 202 MB/sec respectively.

What about using SSDs? You can and I’ll be testing 4 Intel X-25s soon. Apricorn claims write speeds of 675 MB//sec on their web site. Based on what I’ve seen, they’ll be close.

The Storage Bits take

With notebooks outselling desktops the market for the PeDA isn’t as big as it once was. But if you need either a lot of storage in a small form factor or a lot of fast storage the PeDA could be the answer.

In the next few weeks I’ll review 2 more options: the SSD-equipped PeDA; and a low-end external 4 drive array. The goal is to determine the most cost-effective high-bandwidth storage. I don’t recommend RAID 5 on small arrays which is why I didn’t test it on the PeDA. Either stripe (AID 0), or mirror (RAID 1), or mirror and then stripe (RAID 10). For video use AID 0 is fine if you backup the data to another drive every couple of hours.

Comments welcome, of course. Credit to Jackie Cunningham of Drive Savers for connecting the dots and taking “R” out of RAID 0. Long overdue. I’ll return the review unit to Apricorn after I complete part 2 of this review.

ZDNet Review - Apricorn's 4 TB hard card: PCI RAID array - Part 2

Nov 05, 2010 | Robin Harris | Publication: ZDNet

In part I of this review I measured the bandwidth of a hard drive version of the Apricorn hard card. That’s a PCI express card with four 2.5" hard drives mounted on it.

But a good solid state drive (SSD) is faster than a disk - so how fast is the Apricorn card with 4 Intel X25-M drives? I won’t keep you in suspense: darn fast.

Fast enough to handle full 12-bit RGB 4:4:4 at film’s 24 frames-per-second rate. I striped the 4 SSDs with the Mac’s Disk Utility software RAID 0 with the default 32KB block size, which is about the fastest. I used the Blackmagic Designs Disk Speed Test - which is close to X-bench results.

Fast enough for uncompressed 24fps video

The X25-M uses the slower multi-level cell (MLC) flash, while the X25-E uses faster - and more expensive - single-level cell NAND flash. While both have impressive 260 MB/sec read speeds, M version writes - 70 MB/sec - are slower than an empty 2 TB Seagate hard drive at 117 MB/sec. Of course, the hard drive will slow down as it fills up and the flash drive shouldn’t.

Apricorn tested the card with 4 X25-E drives and reported over 675 MB/sec writes speeds. I didn’t have that config to test, but their other numbers have been similar to my test results.

For Macs Apricorn offers a new version of the driver that they’ve tested with Snow Leopard. I didn’t try it as I’m in the middle of a couple of jobs but I believe them.

The Storage Bits take

I’m currently testing a couple of external arrays, and while they have their advantages, internal system storage is less cluttered with fewer connectors to cause problems as well as much faster read performance - and writes, with the X25-E.

The nearest competitor is Fusion-io’s ioXtreme card. At 80 GB for $895 it offers comparable read performance and faster write performance - at least on Windows and Linux machines - no Mac driver is available.

The Apricorn supports 4 80 GB X25-M drives to achieve similar performance. At roughly $250 each, a fully configured Apricorn costs $1200 for 320 GB. You do the math. For uncompressed video the extra capacity will be helpful.

Comments welcome, of course. I’ll ship the gear Apricorn loaned me back this week. It was fun while it lasted! I’ve also done work for Fusion-io, but have they sent me review copies of anything? No.