Serial ATA and RAID Support, Finally!

Finally, with this release of nForce2 and nForce3 platforms, NVIDIA is adding native support for Serial ATA storage channels as well as RAID.  This is one area where VIA has really gained an edge — when their VT8237 south bridge was released with support for two channels of SATA and support for RAID, the manufacturers fell in line to support it with the launch of the Athlon 64 platform.  NVIDIA’s attempts to counter this were met with failure, until now.

The SATA support differs just slightly between the nF3 and nF2 implementations.  The nForce3 250 chipset will support up to 4 channels of Serial ATA and 4 channels of Parallel ATA (the standard hard drive interface you are probably using right now).  The nForce2 Ultra 400 Gb will support 4 channels of Serial ATA and 2 channels of Parallel ATA.  Their RAID support, however, is the same. 

The “NVRAID” solution that NVIDIA is offering RAID 0, 1 and 0+1 as well as JBOD (Just a Bunch Of Disks).  The JBOD support allows you to combine odd-sized drives into a single logical drive.  This is quite useful if you have a few 20-60 GB drives that you would like to combine into one drive in Windows.  Of course, if one drive fails, you are SOL, so be careful which drives you are using for critical data.

NVRAID also allows you to span your RAID array across both SATA and PATA so you can include one EIDE drive and one Serial ATA drive if you wanted.  Spare drives are also supported by the NVRAID software.  This allows you to install a spare hard drive in your system and mark it as “available” for a certain array should a hard drive in a RAID 1 or RAID 0+1 array fail.  The new drive will automatically be installed if a drive dies, and become a normal part of the array and a notification will be sent to the user that a drive has failed.  This is a great feature for mission-critical servers and system in office environments.

Installation and configuration of the NVIDIA RAID solutions is very similar to that of any other RAID software.  The Bios options are there to create a bootable array to install your Operating System on or to simply add an array to a preexisting system. 

New NVIDIA Platform Technology for Athlon 64 / XP - Chipsets 47

This is the NVRAID driver and application program that allows you to view and edit your array configuration if it is not the primary partition.

The performance of the NVIDIA RAID solution is on par with that of VIA’s integrated solution, but nothing of variance enough to showcase.  With NVIDIA finally offering SATA and RAID in their system, should give board manufacturers, and more importantly end-users, more incentive to use the NVIDIA nForce3 platform for the Athlon 64.

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