SmallBiz212

Anyone Else Tempted by SiL3132?

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I have noticed that a few SiL3132 RAID based cards are beginning to show up in the market place. Here are a few links to check out:

RAID Card 1

RAID Card 2

These are 2 port SATA II cards that work on the PCI Express bus. They will do RAID 0 or RAID 1. There are several things that make these cards particularly interesting. They work on the PCI Express Bus which has a theoretical limit of 2.5 Gbps; they use SATA II; and they are ridiculously inexpensive ($30 to $70). Here are some links to the literature:

SiI 3132 Info

SiI 3132 pdf

Does anyone have any experience with these solutions?

I am planning to build a new dual-core AMD system for high-end business/statistics applications. I have been making use of RAID 1 to reduce downtime. These solutions seem very tempting. I was initially turned off by the low price, but on second thought it should not cost an arm and a leg to implement a one-chip card. It would also be nice to make use of the faster hard drives that are currently available.

Any thoughts?

Thanks.

PS I maintain 4 independent RAID 1 arrays currently. (2 Promise, 1 Silicon Image, & 1 NVRAID)

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I have noticed that a few SiL3132 RAID based cards are beginning to show up in the market place. Here are a few links to check out:

RAID Card 1

RAID Card 2

These are 2 port SATA II cards that work on the PCI Express bus. They will do RAID 0 or RAID 1. There are several things that make these cards particularly interesting. They work on the PCI Express Bus which has a theoretical limit of 2.5 Gbps; they use SATA II; and they are ridiculously inexpensive ($30 to $70). Here are some links to the literature:

SiI 3132 Info

SiI 3132 pdf

Does anyone have any experience with these solutions?

I am planning to build a new dual-core AMD system for high-end business/statistics applications. I have been making use of RAID 1 to reduce downtime. These solutions seem very tempting. I was initially turned off by the low price, but on second thought it should not cost an arm and a leg to implement a one-chip card. It would also be nice to make use of the faster hard drives that are currently available.

Any thoughts?

Thanks.

PS I maintain 4 independent RAID 1 arrays currently. (2 Promise, 1 Silicon Image, & 1 NVRAID)

I have 3 2-port RAID ontrollers with the SI 3132 chipset. The controllers I have can do RAID 5 (in conjunction with port multiplier). Controllers have a PCI-E x1 interface. The cards worked well for me before I went to a hardware-based RAID controller.

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I have 3 2-port RAID ontrollers with the SI 3132 chipset. The controllers I have can do RAID 5 (in conjunction with port multiplier). Controllers have a PCI-E x1 interface. The cards worked well for me before I went to a hardware-based RAID controller.

Hi Snomunke.

I appreciate your response.

I have a few follow-up questions:

Can you recommend a brand to use or to avoid?

Did you use the drivers/BIOS from the card manufacturer or directly from Silcon Image?

Will two cards work in the same computer? (i.e. 2 independent RAID 1 arrays)

Thanks.

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I have 3 2-port RAID ontrollers with the SI 3132 chipset. The controllers I have can do RAID 5 (in conjunction with port multiplier). Controllers have a PCI-E x1 interface. The cards worked well for me before I went to a hardware-based RAID controller.

Hi Snomunke.

I appreciate your response.

I have a few follow-up questions:

Can you recommend a brand to use or to avoid?

Did you use the drivers/BIOS from the card manufacturer or directly from Silcon Image?

Will two cards work in the same computer? (i.e. 2 independent RAID 1 arrays)

Thanks.

1. Don't have a particular brand to use or avoid....they all use the same chipset, so they should all function about the same.

2. I updated controllers with BIOS from SI...be careful that the you use the correct BIOS.

3. I had 3 controllers and was running RAID 10. I also hacked Windows XP and was running a software RAID 5 array for awhile too...

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This chip is not actually AHCI compliant - I recommend you read the introduction of the spec if you don't understand objectives and roles from this spec. It doesn't imply anything relative to performance or reliability. It means that support by future OS (Linux, Vista and OSX) and interoperability with other Serial ATA components (drives, other chips) COULD be of lesser quality - this depends more on Silicon Image support evolution in time and the maturation of their product interoperability tests.

On a feature-set basis, the chip doesn't implement all the required extensions to cover Serial ATA 2.5 but cover the most important Serial ATA II extensions - currently only high-end chips or integrated-chipset cover more.

Regarding the driver/BIOS issue, as this is a low cost product, I didn't see any company investing in specific development with this product. So as long as they are recent and logo'ed stick with software from Silicon Image.

Check the driver inf file to see incompatibilities and workarounds with specific combo of firmware/drive.

Hope it helps.

P.S: I don't actually own a chip or a board and I didn't play with one.

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1. Don't have a particular brand to use or avoid....they all use the same chipset, so they should all function about the same.

2. I updated controllers with BIOS from SI...be careful that the you use the correct BIOS.

3. I had 3 controllers and was running RAID 10. I also hacked Windows XP and was running a software RAID 5 array for awhile too...

Hi Snomunke.

I appreciate your helpful reponse.

It sounds like you really put this card through it paces.

Regards.

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This chip is not actually AHCI compliant - I recommend you read the introduction of the spec if you don't understand objectives and roles from this spec. It doesn't imply anything relative to performance or reliability. It means that support by future OS (Linux, Vista and OSX) and interoperability with other Serial ATA components (drives, other chips) COULD be of lesser quality - this depends more on Silicon Image support evolution in time and the maturation of their product interoperability tests.

On a feature-set basis, the chip doesn't implement all the required extensions to cover Serial ATA 2.5 but cover the most important Serial ATA II extensions - currently only high-end chips or integrated-chipset cover more.

Regarding the driver/BIOS issue, as this is a low cost product, I didn't see any company investing in specific development with this product. So as long as they are recent and logo'ed stick with software from Silicon Image.

Check the driver inf file to see incompatibilities and workarounds with specific combo of firmware/drive.

Hope it helps.

P.S: I don't actually own a chip or a board and I didn't play with one.

Hi Seb.

You raise some excellent points.

It would be helpful to understand how this card will fit into future design changes. You have correctly surmised that I am most interested in performance and reliability. BTW, I am also interested in ease-of-use.

I will probably pick up one of these cards and test it with a new system. If it does not work out of the box with the current components, then it will probably go right back.

In addition, I sent an e-mail to Silicon Image to get some more clarification.

Thanks.

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I highly disagree. And I fear that my post wasn't clear or that you misunderstood it.

AHCI (read the spec and the license agreement) define a common approach for a controller interface and doesn't add or modify any details regarding the SATA specification.

It is considered as the main target component for OS driver support (Linux, Vista, an even MacOS X, I heard); so software compatibility -in number of peripherals supported and in time they are supported- COULD be better than relying on Silicon Image alone for a product that MAY NOT exists in a few month -because of the economical non-sense of doing it.

Regarding SATA:

Interoperability, features and extensions supports testing are currently done by industry participant internally and in plugfest from which no results are published.

Serial ATA standards, extensions are really fragmented and this situation is a total mess for the consumer.

The current state of interoperability between SATA devices is good in numbers of peripherals that COULD work but quite poor in features supported between them (see firmware updates of numerous drives notably the latest Maxtor/nFORCE history) .

For example there are no standard or label validation tests that say Sil3132 supports 3Gbits/s rate (Serial ATA 2.5 tries partly to correct that). It doesn't mean that Silicon Image doesn't do its maximum to make it work reliably at this rate and that Sil3132 doesn’t work at his rate with some drives

Nonetheless it clearly doesn't work (or so say the driver inf file) with NCQ with some drive that say to support it too because of incompatibilities.

For a few bucks, all these things don’t really matter for my personnal use. At work the situation is different: I buy only AHCI compliant controller and carefully qualify the references of my hard-disk drive.

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Ya know Seb...if the OP was buying a super expensive controller, MAYBE I would agree with you (if I understood what you wrote). LOL

BUT, the controllers the OP is looking at are cheap (less than $50)...I wouldn't stress him/her too much about detailed technical issues that will probably never come into play...

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I have 3xSil3132 running in a RAID-10/RAID-5 configuration with 6x 400GB (7200.8) drives on an nForce4 motherboard, running Linux 2.6.15. It rocks! I can get 60 MB/sec/drive easily. So each card could more than saturate a regular PCI bus.

Linux NCQ support is still very experimental, and not working on the Linux driver yet, but all the hardware is capable when it arrives.

Yes, they're not AHCI, but Silicon Image has apparently been very good with the docs, and the open-source driver is in good shape. I had some annoying early problems that were eventually traced to the motherboard. One of the PCIe slots

The main limitation is that no commodity motherboards have more than four PCIe slots. one of which is generally used for a video card, so you can only install 6 or 8 ports worth. My future upgrade plans revolve around port multipliers. Silicon Image makes the only commerically available SATA port multiplier right now, so I believe the claims that their adapters support it, and by the time I need more space, the driver support should be there.

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One thing to note is some of these 3rd party board designers may use the reference design for the Si3132, but a few use a different flash rom part for the BIOS. What this means is if SI brings out a new RAID (or IDE for the non RAID controllers) BIOS for one of thes controllers, the stock SI drivers will be unable to flash them. The SI drivers are only designed with a handful of certain flash rom parts, so when a vendor substitutes for a read compatible version... that does not mean the drivers will know how to write to them.

I bought a few SIIG controllers based on the Si3132, and I emailed their techs about this... and basically got back that "we are looking into this" canned response. Right now I cannot upgrade the BIOS on these things and they are running the original BIOS releases.

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One thing to note is some of these 3rd party board designers may use the reference design for the Si3132, but a few use a different flash rom part for the BIOS. What this means is if SI brings out a new RAID (or IDE for the non RAID controllers) BIOS for one of thes controllers, the stock SI drivers will be unable to flash them. The SI drivers are only designed with a handful of certain flash rom parts, so when a vendor substitutes for a read compatible version... that does not mean the drivers will know how to write to them.

I bought a few SIIG controllers based on the Si3132, and I emailed their techs about this... and basically got back that "we are looking into this" canned response. Right now I cannot upgrade the BIOS on these things and they are running the original BIOS releases.

Hi Patord.

You raise some very good questions.

I noticed that the SIIG board design looks different that the other boards.

Pic of SIIG board

Pic of SYBA board

Pic of Rosewill board

The SIIG board may be a custom design. It is good to know that the SiL BIOS cannot be used directly.

Despite running an older BIOS, are you happy with the product?

Regards.

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One thing to note is some of these 3rd party board designers may use the reference design for the Si3132, but a few use a different flash rom part for the BIOS. What this means is if SI brings out a new RAID (or IDE for the non RAID controllers) BIOS for one of thes controllers, the stock SI drivers will be unable to flash them. The SI drivers are only designed with a handful of certain flash rom parts, so when a vendor substitutes for a read compatible version... that does not mean the drivers will know how to write to them.

I bought a few SIIG controllers based on the Si3132, and I emailed their techs about this... and basically got back that "we are looking into this" canned response. Right now I cannot upgrade the BIOS on these things and they are running the original BIOS releases.

Yes, I can confirm this as well.

Card is using a 1Mb PMC Flash chip which isn't supported by Silicon Image.

Silicon Image does have a DOS based bios update util listed for OEM 3132 add in boards, but it doesn't work with the SIIG PCIe version (can't find the adapter even whit -ID option is set).

Current SIIG:

Driver: 1.2.3.1

BIOS: 7.2.13 (April 2004)

Current Silicon Image:

Driver: 1.3.0.9

BIOS: 7.2.30

For reference, how long ago did you open the ticket with SIIG?

I opened one up tonight before finding this thread.

Thanks.

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I never could get an answer out of SIIG Tech Support so I've returned the card.

Go for the other cards mentioned by SmallBiz212.

Hi. I am glad I found this post. I have been having an issue that is related to this controller.

I have been playing with SI 3132 based cards from Siig and Syba and have had a real problem. I had the issue with the Siig about the firmware so I sent that back. I then bought a Syba. But the main problem remains the same...they have performed VERY badly for me! I have been trying to use the 3132 based cards to get a higher performing RAID 0 volume on my gaming machine. At first I was using an Asus A8N-SLi Deluxe but I recently "upgraded" to an Asus A8R32-MVP Deluxe (which has it's own problems...). On both these motherboards, while installing Windows and also in benchmarks, my performance in RAID 0 dropped by a little more than half, compared to the NVRAID PCI solution. (Sandra drive index went from 95MB/s to 45MB/s!) Plus it seemed the hard drives were working far more often and longer. So I experienced this in real life and synthetic tests. 2 motherboards, and 2 different cards, same controller chip and same hard drives. (2x WD Raptor 74's)

When I contacted Silicon Image they said something about PCI-E motherboards having too much overhead or something, I cannot recall. But I read that others are NOT having a problem, and are, in fact, getting good performance! (better than i got on my NVRAID)

Does anyone here have anything to add to this? This has been driving me nuts. I just ordered a Sunix version. It will likely end up the same way, but I want better RAID performance. And I seem doomed not to have it. :(

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Does anyone here have anything to add to this? This has been driving me nuts. I just ordered a Sunix version. It will likely end up the same way, but I want better RAID performance. And I seem doomed not to have it. :(

Hi ZW.

I just order a whole new system with the Syba Card. After taking a few weeks to build and test the new system, I can post my results on this thread.

In order to understand your woes, can you please post the specs of your system and some of the troubleshooting that you attempted?

Thanks.

SB

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I never could get an answer out of SIIG Tech Support so I've returned the card.

Go for the other cards mentioned by SmallBiz212.

Hi. I am glad I found this post. I have been having an issue that is related to this controller.

I have been playing with SI 3132 based cards from Siig and Syba and have had a real problem. I had the issue with the Siig about the firmware so I sent that back. I then bought a Syba. But the main problem remains the same...they have performed VERY badly for me! I have been trying to use the 3132 based cards to get a higher performing RAID 0 volume on my gaming machine. At first I was using an Asus A8N-SLi Deluxe but I recently "upgraded" to an Asus A8R32-MVP Deluxe (which has it's own problems...). On both these motherboards, while installing Windows and also in benchmarks, my performance in RAID 0 dropped by a little more than half, compared to the NVRAID PCI solution. (Sandra drive index went from 95MB/s to 45MB/s!) Plus it seemed the hard drives were working far more often and longer. So I experienced this in real life and synthetic tests. 2 motherboards, and 2 different cards, same controller chip and same hard drives. (2x WD Raptor 74's)

When I contacted Silicon Image they said something about PCI-E motherboards having too much overhead or something, I cannot recall. But I read that others are NOT having a problem, and are, in fact, getting good performance! (better than i got on my NVRAID)

Does anyone here have anything to add to this? This has been driving me nuts. I just ordered a Sunix version. It will likely end up the same way, but I want better RAID performance. And I seem doomed not to have it. :(

Maybe the problem is just the lack of support of TCQ from the SiI 3132 ... :??:

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I just order a whole new system with the Syba Card. After taking a few weeks to build and test the new system, I can post my results on this thread.

I had a mixed experience using the Syba Card.

The good news is that it worked!!! I was able to install the latest drivers from the Silicon Image website and even flashed to the latest firmware. I had no problems installing the software, setting-up a RAID 1, and loading Windows.

The bad news was related to the quality of this part and the weak software. The card's connections had a lot of play. So much so that it would not recognize a drive after fiddling with it. The card was in a 4x slot which also introduced a lot of play. The software is very weak. I was having difficulty with a brand new drive. Twice the drive lost synchronization (bad drive) and I had to navigate the software to re-mirror the array. It took me quite a while to understand the log file to figure out exactly which drive in the RAID 1 pair was being copied to the other. Lastly, my confidence dropped to the floor when I installed a fresh replacement drive and the bios didn't notice.

So the card is now sitting on the shelf collecting dust. I actually like having it around for emergency situations or when I need to temporarily add an extra SATA connector to a motherboard. (I wonder if this card would work with one of those fancy SATA DVD burners.)

SB

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I have noticed that a few SiL3132 RAID based cards are beginning to show up in the market place. Here are a few links to check out:

RAID Card 1

RAID Card 2

These are 2 port SATA II cards that work on the PCI Express bus. They will do RAID 0 or RAID 1. There are several things that make these cards particularly interesting. They work on the PCI Express Bus which has a theoretical limit of 2.5 Gbps; they use SATA II; and they are ridiculously inexpensive ($30 to $70). Here are some links to the literature:

SiI 3132 Info

SiI 3132 pdf

Does anyone have any experience with these solutions?

I am planning to build a new dual-core AMD system for high-end business/statistics applications. I have been making use of RAID 1 to reduce downtime. These solutions seem very tempting. I was initially turned off by the low price, but on second thought it should not cost an arm and a leg to implement a one-chip card. It would also be nice to make use of the faster hard drives that are currently available.

Any thoughts?

Thanks.

PS I maintain 4 independent RAID 1 arrays currently. (2 Promise, 1 Silicon Image, & 1 NVRAID)

I just bought two of them from http://www.monoprice.com/home/index.asp fro less than $14.00 each. I haven't received them yet, but the comments read sold me on them. Maybe you need to check out this website, lots of low prices...dave

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