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LSI releases dual interface flash controller, 12 Gbps SAS cards

LSI released its SandForce 3700 flash controller with support for PCIe and SATA interfaces, and also completed its MegaRAID 12 Gbps SAS product line.

LSI Corp. has been busy upgrading its flash product lines, pushing out new SandForce and MegaRAID flash controllers last week.

LSI introduced its SandForce (SF) 3700 series flash controllers and filled out its 12 Gbps Serial-Attached SCSI (SAS) MegaRAID product line. The SandForce 3700 provides native support for PCI-Express and 6 Gbps Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) interfaces. The latest MegaRAID products are the SAS 9300 controller cards and the 12 Gbps SAS expanders.

SandForce 3700 flash controllers

The SandForce 3700 series flash controller's dual interface support was designed for OEMs in client and enterprise markets.

The SF 3719 is for entry-level client devices, the SF 3729 and the SF 3739 are for mainstream clients and lower-end enterprises, and the SF 3759 is geared more towards performance for enterprise use.

Kent Smith, the senior director of marketing for LSI's flash division, said the controllers were already shipped to OEM partners who plan to mass produce devices with the 3700 controllers in the first half of 2014.

Jim Handy, solid-state disk (SSD) analyst with Los Gatos, Calif.-based Objective Analysis, thinks the dual-interface design will benefit end users down the line as OEMs are able to streamline their inventory and pass economies-of-scale savings on to customers. Instead of stocking both PCIe and SATA cards, OEMs can just stock the 3700 controllers and decide which interface to ship on the way out the door.

The 3700 also has a new modular design intended to make it more flexible. The front end has the dual interface support and the modular back end has the ability to support new flash technologies with just firmware updates.

"One of the major things that we focused on is putting as much flexibility into the hardware and letting it be controlled by firmware so we can go into the future as far as possible," Smith said.

LSI also included improvements in its DuraWrite data reduction and Shield error correction code (ECC) technologies.

MegaRAID SAS 9300 controllers and 12 Gbps expanders

The LSI third-generation 9300 series 12 Gbps SAS controller cards include six models with four- and eight-port options. All six models support PCIe 3.0.

Jim Evans, the product marketing manager for LSI's RAID Solutions Division, said that recent company benchmark testing using transactional processing databases showed that the 12 Gbps cards supported 60% more database users than the 6 Gbps cards.

Objective Analysis' Handy said having 12 Gbps SAS controllers should satisfy the increasing need for speed brought on by SSDs. While legacy 3 Gbps and 6 Gbps SATA and SAS pipes have been saturated by solid-state technology, "it might be a while before they saturate [the 12 Gbps bus]," Handy said.

The new 9300 controller cards also include a new diagnostic capability that allows putting drives in a suspended state to determine if a certain drive has failed.

The 12 Gbps expanders can extend the controller's reach by connecting up to 48 drives using multiple expanders. It also includes LSI's DataBolt technology, which preserves investments in 6 Gbps SAS drives while obtaining 12 Gbps throughput.

DataBolt abstracts the disk and SAS link and uses end device frame buffering (EDFB) to make 6 Gbps connections look like 12 Gbps connections. Evans said testing in a big data environment showed that the DataBolt technology increased throughput by 25%.

"It creates a buffer that separates the drives from the expander," Evans explained, "so the controller sees that buffer area as the endpoint, and sees it all at 12 Gig. There's enough buffering in that expander that everything can continue to run at 12 Gig without causing any sort of bottlenecking."

Pricing for the 9300 series starts at $235 for the four-port 9341-4i and ranges up to $899 for the eight-port, 1 GB 9380-8e. The 9341 and 9361 controllers are available now. The 9380 controller cards are expected to ship during the first half of 2014.

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