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I've had a few issues running software raid on XenServer, and I would also like to try out VMware ESXi which won't easily be combined with a software raid.

Are there any low cost PCI cards that would run 8 s-ata spindles in raid 5 and is supported by VMware ESXi 4? Performance don't need to be great, but a few hundred iops and somwhere around 100 MB/s sequential transfer would be nice.

To clearify, I was originally looking for a standard PCI card, however I also have a PCIe x16 slot that can be used instead.

As for the definition of low cost, i was hoping for a little less than $400-500.

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Please, if asking for purchasing recommendations, give us an approximate budget. 'low' might mean $100 to one person, and $1000 to another person. – davr Oct 7 '09 at 17:24
I've edited the question to clarify. I was hoping to find something less expensive than the typical $400 for 3Ware or $500 for Adaptec controllers. – Roy Oct 7 '09 at 20:06
Thanks for adding the PCIe slot. PCI is nearly dead these days. – osij2is Oct 7 '09 at 20:46
Just as well you have the PCI-e, as I don't know of any 8-port controller for old-fashioned PCI (bandwidth limited I'm guessing). Plenty of PCI 8x controllers though. – Mark Henderson Oct 7 '09 at 21:12
If you're looking to push 100MB/s transfer rates, you'll definitely want to go for a PCIe controller card. Unless by PCI, you mean PCI-X or something like that. – Peter Bernier Nov 4 '09 at 20:30
up vote 3 down vote accepted

low cost PCI cards that would run 8 s-ata spindles in raid 5

First, you're going to have to define 'low' cost as 8-ports is not cheap. Maybe it would be cheaper to break it into 2x 4-port SATA II RAID cards. That might be slightly less than one 8-port card. A good PCI express card with 8-ports can cost up over $400 easily (link). Is that 'low' cost enough for you? I mean, 8 SATA HDDs in a RAID solution for $400-$500 to me is fair. Maybe you can get a little cheaper if you get older versions/models from manufacturers.

Second, specify the PCI flavor: PCIe 8x/4x/1x, PCI-X (32/64-bit), etc. etc. Off the top of my head, I don't know many (if any) plain old PCI 3.3v/5v that support 8-port SATA RAID, so odds are PCI express is the bus that can do what you're asking for.

Third, I'd argue that you ought to give XenServer another shot (with hardware RAID of course). ESXi is a great product as well, but running software RAID (period) IMO does more harm than good regardless of the product. I'm sure others may refute my statement, but software RAID to me is still a joke (if you're serious about any level of redundancy IMO).

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I found the same thing when I was looking to buy an 8 port SATA II card. I was using ZFS so I didn't need RAID, but I still went with the Areca 1220, which supports RAID 0,1,5,6, JBOD, and pass-thru disks, because it was the cheapest card with good reviews with regards to performance and reliability. – Amok Oct 7 '09 at 16:59
+1 Amuck: Areca is a reputable manufacturer in the SATA RAID market. – osij2is Oct 7 '09 at 17:05
By PCI I really meant PCI. I've found some cards from 3Ware, but they're not cheap. As for low cost I was hoping for a little less than the typical $400. Considering Dell can sell a complete 2 socket server with an IOP333 based SAS controller for $700, it seemed plausible that there could be some cheap controllers around. I've updated the question to clarify. – Roy Oct 7 '09 at 20:04
Thanks, I do appreciate your suggestions. I must beg to differ on software raids, however. In a lab or home environment the raid is a convenience more than anything else, saving me from doing a full restore every time a drive fails. Doing it in software means I can set up a 5TB filer for $600 instead of $1100. As for the production environments those run on Xscale/SAS or EVA – Roy Oct 7 '09 at 20:09
Glad to be of help, Roy. As for PCI based cards... I'm not familiar with SATA RAID PCI cards, so I can't be much help there. I'm sure someone in SF may be better with this. Personally, I prefer 3Ware PCI-express as they've worked wonders for me with no troubles. As for software RAID it seems its only advantage is cost so yes, $500 is a huge difference. – osij2is Oct 7 '09 at 20:43

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