Ciprico branches out

By Dave Simpson

—Known primarily as a storage systems vendor focused on the entertainment market, Ciprico hopes to branch out beyond its traditional roots into the mainstream IT storage market. The seeds for the expansion were planted last year with Ciprico's acquisition of certain RAIDcore products from Broadcom, including host-based RAID software.

Targeted at systems builders, OEMs, systems-storage integrators, and VARs, Ciprico's RAIDCore RC5000 line of SAS/SATA RAID controllers are available in 4- or 8-port configurations for PCI-X or PCI Express hosts (Windows or Linux). The company plans to ship 12- and 16-port versions in the third quarter. Also due later this year is support for Intel and nVidia motherboards as part of Ciprico's upcoming Universal RAIDCore software stack.

Based on lab tests, the company claims performance of more than 1.1GBps with 16 SATA drives. Using spanning algorithms, integrators can create virtual arrays of up to 32 drives with any configuration of controller cards.

But Ciprico's real "secret sauce" may lie in its host-based RAIDCore software stack. (Since the RAID logic resides in the software, rather than the hardware, Ciprico's RAID controllers could more accurately be described as adapters, or host bus adapters.)

The host software stack eliminates the need for embedded processors or custom RAID chipsets on the controller/adapter. Instead, the software-based RAID approach uses host CPU cycles for RAID calculations.

Andrew Mills, Ciprico's senior vice president of marketing and development, predicts a rapid shift toward pure software-based RAID, in part because of the advent of multi-core CPUs that can more efficiently handle the RAID processing overhead.

"Multi-core host CPUs have more than enough horsepower for software-based RAID," says Mills.

To varying degrees, Ciprico competes with vendors such as Adaptec, Areca Technology, LSI, Promise Technology, and 3ware.

Ciprico's RAIDCore controllers/adapters and software are distributed by Avnet and Bell Microproducts. Entry-level RAID-0/1/10 versions of the cards are priced at about $219, while RAID-0/1/10 and 5 versions are priced at approximately $299. Pricing for the upcoming 12-port and 16-versions is expected to be $519 and $679, respectively.

Separately, Ciprico earlier this year demonstrated an emerging class of direct-attached storage (DAS) configurations that are based on PCI Express external cabling, a technology that the company dubs "switched DAS." The demonstration was based on Cirpico's RAICore host software stack running on a direct-attached 20Gbps PCI Express x8 external connection to a SAS/SATA I/O card over 7 meters of cable. The demonstration also included 16 1TB SATA drives from Hitachi GST, and Adobe's video editing suite supporting multiple streams of high-definition (HD) video.

This article was originally published on May 30, 2007