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Broadcom aka Avago aka LSI announces SAS SATA NVMe Adapters with RAID

server storage I/O trends

Broadcom aka Avago aka LSI announces SAS SATA NVMe Adapters with RAID

In case you missed it, Broadcom formerly known as Avago who bought the LSI adapter and RAID card business announced shipping new SAS, SATA and NVMe devices.

While SAS and SATA are well established continuing to be deployed for both HDD as well as flash SSD, NVMe continues to evolve with a bright future. Likewise, while there is a focus on software-defined storage (SDS), software defined data centers (SDDC) and software defined data infrastructures (SDDI) along with advanced parity RAID including erasure codes, object storage among other technologies, there is still a need for adapter cards including traditional RAID.

Keep in mind that while probably not meeting the definition of some software-defined aficionados, the many different variations, permutations along with derivatives of RAID from mirror and replication to basic parity to advanced erasure codes (some based on Reed Solomon aka RAID 2) rely on software. Granted, some of that software is run on regular primary server processors, some on packaged in silicon via ASICs or FPGAs, or System on Chips (SOC), RAID on Chip (RoC) as well as BIOS, firmware, drivers as well as management tools.

SAS, SATA and NVMe adapters

For some environments cards such as those announced by Broadcom are used in passthru mode effectively as adapters for attaching SAS, SATA and NVMe storage devices to servers. Those servers may be deployed as converged infrasture (CI), hyper-converged infrastructures (HCI), Cluster or Cloud in Box (CiB) among other variations. To name names you might find the above (or in the not so distant future) in VMware vSAN or regular vSphere based environments, Microsoft Windows Server, Storage Spaces Direct (S2D) or Azure Stack, OpenStack among other deployments (check your vendors Hardware Compatibility Lists aka HCLs). In some cases these cards may be adapters in passthru mode, or using their RAID (support various by different software stacks). Meanwhile in other environments, the more traditional RAID features are still used spanning Windows to Linux among others.

Who Is Broadcom?

Some of you may know of Broadcom having been around for many years with a focus on networking related technologies. However some may not realize that Avago bought Broadcom and changed their name to Broadcom. Here is a history that includes more recent acquisitions such as Brocade, PLX, Emulex as well as LSI. Some of you may recall Avago buying LSI (the SAS, SATA, PCIe HBA, RAID and components) business not sold to NetApp as part of Engenio. Also recall that Avago sold the LSI flash SSD business unit to Seagate a couple of years ago as part of its streamlining. That's how we get to where we are at today with Broadcom aka formerly known as Avago who bought the LSI adapter and RAID business announcing new SAS, SATA, NVMe cards.

What Was Announced?

Broadcom has announced cards that are multi-protocol supporting Serial Attached SCSI (SAS), SATA/AHCI as well as NVM Express (NVMe) as basic adapters for attaching storage (HDD, SSD, storage systems) along with optional RAID as well as cache support. These cards can be used in application servers for traditional, as well as virtualized SDDC environments, as well as storage systems or appliances for software-defined storage among other uses. The basic functionality of these cards is to provide high performance (IOPs and other activity, as well as bandwidth) along with low latency combined with data protection as well as dense connectivity.

Specific features include:

  • Broadcom’s Tri-Mode SerDes Technology enables the operation of NVMe, SAS or SATA devices in a single drive bay, allowing for endless design flexibility.
  • Management software including LSI Storage Authority (LSA), StorCLI, HII (UEFI)
  • Optional CacheVault(R) flash cache protection
  • Physical dimension Low Profile 6.127” x 2.712”
  • Host bus type x8 lane PCIe Express 3.1
  • Data transfer rates SAS-3 12Gbs; NVMe up to 8 GT/s PCIe Gen 3
  • Various OS and hypervisors host platform support
  • Warranty 3 yrs, free 5x8 phone support, advanced replacement option
  • RAID levels 0, 1, 5, 6, 10, 50, and 60

Note that some of the specific feature functionality may be available at a later date, check with your preferred vendors HCL

Specification

9480 8i8e

9440 8i

9460 8i

9460 16i

Image

Broadcom 9480 8i83 nvme raid

Broadcom 9440 8i nvme raid

Broadcom 9460 8i nvme raid

Broadcom 9460 16i nvme raid

Internal Ports

8

 

8

16

Internal Connectors

2 x Mini-SAS HD x4 SFF-8643

2 x Mini-SAS HD x4 SFF-8643

2 x Mini-SAS HD x4 SFF-8643

4 Mini-SAS HD x4
SFF-8643

External Ports

8

 

 

 

External Connectors

2 x Mini-SAS HD SFF8644

 

 

 

Cache Protection

CacheVault CVPM05

 

CacheVault CVPM05

CacheVault CVPM05

Cache Memory

2GB 2133 MHz DDR4 SDRAM

 

2GB 2133 MHz DDR4 SDRAM

4GB 2133 MHz DDR4 SDRAM

Devices Supported

SAS/SATA: 255, NVMe: 4 x4, up to 24 x2 or x4*

SAS/SATA: 63, NVMe: 4 x4, up to 24 x2 or x4*

SAS/SATA: 255, NVMe: 4 x4, up to 24 x2 or x4*

SAS/SATA: 255, NVMe: 4 x4, up to 24 x2 or x4*

I/O Processors (SAS Controller)

SAS3516 dual-core RAID-on-Chip (ROC)

SAS3408 I/O controller (IOC)

SAS3508 dual-core RAID-on-Chip (ROC)

SAS3516 dual-core RAID-on-Chip (ROC)

In case you need a refresher on SFF cable types, click on the following two images which take you to Amazon.com where you can learn more, as well as order various cable options. PC Pit Stop has a good selection of cables (See other SFF types), connectors and other accessories that I have used, along with those from Amazon.com and others.

Available via Amazon.com sff 8644 8643 sas mini hd cable
Left: SFF 8644 Mini SAS HD (External), Right SFF-8643 Mini SAS HD (internal) Image via Amazon.com

Available via Amazon.com sff 8644 8642 sas mini hd cable
Left: SFF 8643 Mini SAS HD (Internal), Right SFF-8642 SATA with power (internal) Image via Amazon.com

Wait, Doesnt NVMe use PCIe

For those who are not familiar with NVMe and in particular U.2 aka SFF 8639 based devices, physically they look the same (almost) as a SAS device connector. The slight variation is if you look at a SAS drive, there is a small tab to prevent plugging into a SATA port (recall you can plug SATA into SAS. For SAS drives that tab is blank, however on the NVMe 8639 aka U.2 drives (below left) that tab has several connectors which are PCIe x4 (single or dual path).

What this means is that the PCIe x4 bus electrical signals are transferred via a connector, to backplane chassis to 8639 drive slot to the drive. Those same 8639 drive slots can also have a SAS SATA connection using their traditional connectors enabling a converged or hybrid drive slot so to speak. Learn more about NVMe here (If the Answer is NVMe, then what were and are the questions?) as well as at www.thenvmeplace.com.

NVMe U.2 8639 driveNVMe U.2 8639 sas sata nvme drive
Left NVMe U.2 drive showing PCIe x4 connectors, right, NVMe U.2 8639 connector

Who Is This For?

These cards are applicable for general purpose IT and other data infrastructure environments in traditional servers among others uses. They are also applicable for systems builders, integrators and OEMs whom you may be buying your current systems from, or future ones.

Where to Learn More

The following are additional resources to learn more about vSAN and related technologies.

What this all means

Even as the industry continues to talk and move towards more software-defined focus, even for environments that are serverless, there is still need for hardware somewhere. These adapters are a good sign of the continued maturing cycle of NVMe to be well positioned into the next decade and beyond, while also being relevant today. Likewise, even though the future involves NVMe, there is a still a place for SAS along with SATA to coexist in many environments. For some environment there is a need for traditional RAID while for others simply the need for attachment of SAS, SATA and NVMe devices. Overall, a good set of updates, enhancements and new technology for today and tomorrow, now, when do I get some to play with? ;).

Ok, nuff said (for now...).

Cheers
Gs

Greg Schulz - Microsoft MVP Cloud and Data Center Management, VMware vExpert (and vSAN). Author Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking (CRC Press), The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC Press), Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier) and twitter @storageio. Watch for the spring 2017 release of his new book "Software-Defined Data Infrastructure Essentials" (CRC Press).

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Greg Schulz is founder of the Server and StorageIO (StorageIO) Group, an IT industry analyst and consultancy firm. Greg has worked with various server operating systems along with storage and networking software tools, hardware and services. Greg has worked as a programmer, systems administrator, disaster recovery consultant, and storage and capacity planner for various IT organizations. He has worked for various vendors before joining an industry analyst firm and later forming StorageIO.

In addition to his analyst and consulting research duties, Schulz has published over a thousand articles, tips, reports and white papers and is a sought after popular speaker at events around the world. Greg is also author of the books Resilient Storage Network (Elsevier) and The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC). His blog is at www.storageioblog.com and he can also be found on twitter @storageio.