Hands-On Review: Celerity FC-24XL


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Celerity HBA is a Storage Star

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Atto Technology Celerity FC-24XL storage adapter
Fibre Channel host bus adapter
Key features:
Quad- ported 2Gb/sec interface
High throughput, onboard CPU, sizeable DMA memory
High price
After testing Atto Technology Inc.'s quad-ported, independent channel host bus adapter (HBA) with an onboard Intel processor, it seems clear what industry the company is targeting. The Celerity FC-24XL storage adapter, Atto's newest, fastest, most densely ported HBA, could have been called Celebrity, because Atto seems to have had Hollywood in mind when it was developed.

Hollywood movie production houses were among the early adopters of Fibre Channel (FC) storage area networks (SANs). Because they must move large volumes of data between editing stations to manipulate audio and video characteristics, applications often require the largest data pipe available. If you've noticed how quickly new DVDs hit the video store shelves, you can chalk it up to the increased productivity resulting from FC SANs.

Atto continues to increase its footprint in tinseltown by providing products in lockstep with Apple Computer Inc., the favorite platform of movie production houses. It's surprising that no other HBA vendor currently has a comparable product for this space. Apple sells a dual-ported, independent channel PCI adapter for connectivity to its XSAN line of products for $500, and Charismac Engineering Inc. has rewritten Emulex Corp. drivers to support a limited number of HBAs for Mac OS X, but that's it.

The Celerity FC-24XL is supported under Mac OS X 10.3.x, various versions of Windows and Red Hat Linux 8.x and 9.x.

Although backward compatible with PCI, the Celerity FC-24XL should be installed in a 64-bit PCI-X slot to achieve maximum throughput capabilities. If port density--not speed--is your main objective, then installing the card into a 64-bit PCI slot will work.

After installing the HBA into a Power Mac G5 server, I checked to see if the driver and firmware versions were up to date, and found that both needed to be upgraded. To install the driver version (1.20), I installed the latest Atto configuration tool (2.61) and flash file (FlashBundle_2004_03_31.24X), both of which can be found in the support/download section at www.attotech.com. Make sure you're running Mac OS X 10.2.4 or later (although 10.3.x is required to use the FC-24XL) and Java update 1.4.1 for the configuration tool to work properly.

I used the configuration tool to update the flash file on the FC-24XL and it worked without incident. Extracting and installing the new device driver required a few mouse clicks. A reboot was required due to the changes in the flash file.

Ordinarily, Mac OS X device drivers are loaded and unloaded dynamically or manually using the kextload and kextunload commands. After rebooting and evoking the configuration tool, I could see that the device driver and flash file had been updated.

This was first published in July 2004

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