Over the next couple of years, enough IT buyers will require RAID for their servers that vendors will put RAID directly on the motherboard, rather than in a separate RAID host bus adapter card.
At least, that's the future according to Gartner Inc., which foresees RAID on Motherboard (ROMB) and RAID on Chip (ROC) technology capturing 80% of the host-based RAID market by 2005, up from 42% in 2002.
At Dell, the "attach rate" of server purchases requiring RAID has already reached the tipping point. According to Russ Ray, Dell senior product manager for server products, Dell ships ROMB as a $99 or $199 option to "the meat of the market," its two-way 2000 and 4000 series servers. In contrast, Dell IDE and SCSI RAID cards cost $299 and $499, respectively.
But don't expect to find ROMB at the low or high end. To keep costs down, Dell doesn't offer ROMB on single processor systems, or on its four-way 6000 series servers, because "in the back-end data centers where you find these servers, [IT managers] want the flexibility of updating their RAID cards, or servicing them differently," i.e., independently from the motherboard, Ray says.
Now, Intel and LSI Logic are furthering ROMB's future by partnering to port LSI's MegaRAID technology to Intel's next-generation PCI Express bus, integrating RAID functionality directly onto a PCI Express motherboard. Intel is currently working on the so-called Lindenhurst chipset, to be announced next spring, including the Dobson I/O processor to which LSI's RAID chip will connect.
ROMB's main benefit may be cost, but according to Jim Evans, LSI product marketing manager, it also frees up slots and reduces the latency you see as a result of RAID cards connecting to the motherboard over a shared bus.