3ware SATA Raid "Escalade 9500S-8MI"

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SATA is quite new to me, and this will be my first system incorporating a SATA device. Nothing quite like jumping into the deep end right away....

With the Escalade 9500S, it supports 8 SATA devices, on a multilane SATA.


1. What is a multi-lane SATA ?

2. What makes multilane SATA better than regular SATA ?

3. Can I use "regular" SATA drives with this RAID card , or do I need some sort of connector ? Special cable ? or otherwise ? (the drives I was looking at are the Western Digital WD2000JD 200GB ) these:


4. How many drives go on each cable ? (2?)

5. Am I even looking at a good RAID card here (I am mostly trusting the 3ware name on this one)?

6. Is there anything I should know if I am planning to use this on a FreeBSD 5.x system?

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1. Its a cable system invented by 3ware, for SATA drives and its controllers.

2. Its supposed to be better air flow, and make cable routing easier.

3. Yes you can use normal sata drives and cables with these cards.

4. 1 and only 1

5. Yes, its an okay card... Has some Issues that need to be ironed out yet...

6. Yes, Drivers! Double check, tripple check that the drivers for BSD are out, and stable. Linux drivers are only now ramping up to acceptable performance levels. Iam not sure where BSD drivers are.

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Are there any other RAID cards out there that have good driver support for BSD systems and are good cards themselves that you would reccommend ? I am trying to stay below the $500 bracket for the card, but will certainly pay more if it's going to make my life easier.

6. The 3ware site states that BSD drivers are available .. although through contacting a couple people in a FreeBSD group I participate in, no-one has tried this card.

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You can check into LSI, however the largest they make is a 6 port card. and 2 4 port cards would probably cost more than $500... I would also suggest Adaptec, but thier cards cost more than $500.00

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ah yes, I didn't specify that I wouldn't be maxing this card out. For my system I'd be most likely using 4 drives , starting with a 3 drive RAID 5 array.


The LSI 6 port card you mention : the MegaRAID SATA 150-6 looks pretty solid, espcially the battery backup option ... (I don't need it though). The 150-4 looks like it's going for $236 while the 150-6 is for $306 (off pricewatch). From the LSI logic site it doesn't seem like they have BSD drivers, but there are a number of different Linux drivers and a few other Unix system support. (Suse, ..Red Hat, etc.. )

FreeBSD doesn't seem to support similar RAID devices to this. :-/


From Adaptec, their 8 port card is retailing at $600+

and $465 on pricewatch.

SCO, SUSE and Red Hat are supported ... :-/

FreeBSD supports the 4 port: Adaptec SCSI RAID 2410SA

The question: Is the chipset the same between the SATA RAID vs the SCSI RAID 2410SA ? and .. will the provided driver for FreeBSD work it ? (my guess is probably yes)

Should I just give up on FreeBSD and run to use Red Hat and hae a better card for the same price ? I'm not particularly tied to FreeBSD, I just happen to be familiar with it and enjoy the administration tools via console.

What do you think about this ?

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From this page: (emphasis mine)

3ware offers a truly innovative SATA cabling solution for large-scale configurations, where space and airflow are at a premium. The Escalade 9500S Multi-lane (MI) controllers combine a highly reliable, locking cable/connector system that combines four SATA ports into one on the controller side. Available in 12 or 8-port configurations, the Escalade 9500S-MI controllers increase reliability, and simplify ease of installation and routing.  Multi-lane controllers require that you use a backplane with multi-lane connectors. Vendors who supply these backplanes include: AIC, Chenbro, Ci Designs and others.


4. Each drive will be on it's own cable, but by the time they get to the card, 4 drives will be on one port of the card.

6. Apparently you need to use an approved backplane. I don't know if that will matter much *shrugs*.

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Ooo .. the "approved backplane" hmm .. not too sure about that. I was planning on throwing this all in a tower case along with the mobo 3 SATA 7200 drives -- on a 400W PS should be fine (nothing else except maybe another NIC and a hardly used CDROM or floppy drive)

I overlooked that, I'll take another peek at the other RAID cards from LSI and Adaptec ..

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is this from 3ware as well or do you refer to the LSI or Adaptec models ?  (pricewatch lists companies that haves them much cheaper than retail)

I was talking about the 3ware 9500S -8

Link to Newegg. It runs about $50 more than the Multilane version, and doesn't require the backplane.

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1) Multi-lane SATA is simply using one cable for up to 4 drives instead of 4 discrete (individual) cables for 4 drives. With a multilane backplane as well, you only have 1 cable from the backplane to the controller for up to 4 drives. With a discrete backplane, you have 1 connector from the controller sprouting out 4 connectors for 4 discrete drives.

Trivia bit: IIRC the multilane cable is actually an Infiniband cable...

2) Multilane makes for easier cable routing. To plug in up to 4 drives, you need only 1 cable to the controller (1 multilane cable). A single cable with a pair of connectors means fewer possible points of failure vs. discrete cables for each drive and connection to the RAID card.

Multilane is purely a different cable for SATA, at least as far as you're concerned. Instead of running 4 cables for 4 drives into a discrete backplane, you run 1 cable for 4 drives into a multilane backplane. The primary advantage of multilane is in applications with a backplane intended for very high density, where reducing the number of cables by a factor of 4 is very useful.

3) You need a multilane backplane for a multilane controller, or you need special multilane-to-discrete (individual drive) cables. The drives you use in the end with a multilane controller are STANDARD SATA drives.

4) One multilane cable handles up to 4 drives.

5) Yes, 3ware's 9500 series is very good.

This entire discussion is moot if you don't plan to run a backplane for your drives. If you're just running discrete drives, get the discrete controller (9500S-8) rather than the multilane controller (9500S-8MI). It's much easier, particularly since discrete-to-multilane cables are usually custom-made and very expensive.

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There are a few controllers supported under FreeBSD:

i) The older Intel SRCS14L SATA RAID controller using driver iir.

ii) Adapter 2410SA and its derivative, including Dell CERC SATA 2. These models utilize the aac driver. Available in -CURRENT and the upcoming 5.3-RELEASE.

iii) 3Ware such as the one you're using is supported but as you mentioned no one you know has tested the card.

Software RAID management for these devices in FreeBSD is non-existent.

LSI Logic MegaRAID SATA 150-2/6 is supported as well but you have to use atacontrol to create/destroy RAID volumes. Ditto Intel ICH5R and other firmware-based chipset. atacontrol takes advantage of the controller's firmware to create RAID volumes. Performance is generally in the range expected from a software RAID implementation.

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Good news from 3ware !! They have full support for FreeBSD and quite some nice options as well.

Here's my email and a reply to it from the nice people over at 3ware:

[* - Thu Oct 21 02:22:42 2004]:

> Email: *

> Product: Escalade 9500 Serial Controllers

> Question: Request:- 21st October 2004 at 2:45

> The Escalade is one of the

> newest controllers out for RAID. I want to do RAID 5 with this

> controller with 3 SATA Western Digital drives (200G). Will this work

> under FreeBSD? (what is your driver support like for this operating

> system?)


> I am comparing your products to similar models from RAIDCore

> (broadcom), LSI and Adaptec. How does the 9500S compare to everyone else

> ?


> Thank you for your quick response,

> Theorem


Bryant, we recently added full support for FreeBSD based on customer

feedback so our 9000 series should work fine.

Since we are a true hardware based RAID controller the host system reliance is minimal. The drivers we use are basically SCSI mini-port drivers and all of our RAID

functionality is handled by our onboard processor.

The StorSwitch technology is one of the differentiators of our product to competitors cards as it allows our controller to read or write from all ports simultaneously. This feature along with our onboard cache is responsible for our high RAID performance, especially under RAID 5. I have provided a link below for more details on this unique feature.

Our controller also provides most of the advanced RAID features like tag command queuing, command re-ordering, dynamic sector repair, and background verification.

In FreeBSD we offer not only compiled drivers for various version of the OS but also an open source driver that can be compiled to whichever kernel you are using. There is also our management utility 3DM2 that is now developed for FreeBSD. In general our product is solidly supported for FreeBSD and has the features, performance and reliability that customers require.


P.S. We will have a firmware update later this year to add features

like OCE (online capacity expansion), RLM (RAID level migration), and

LUN support that will be flashable to all 9000 series products. We also

just released our new BBU (Battery Backup Module) for the 9000 series

which should be available by the end of this month. Any information

from this e-mail you wish to post is okay.


David Graas

3ware Corporate Sales Manager


I bought one ;-). Should be here Monday or Tuesday.

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