ICP vortex GDT RAID Controllers

While ICP is the largest supplier of RAID hardware in Europe, they appear to have a low profile here in the U.S. compared with Mylex, Adaptec and AMI.
Price

Like Mercedes-Benz cars and most other German products, the GDT is somewhat over-engineered. This makes it very reliable and safe, but also more expensive than the competition. I tried two different resellers of ICP controllers. One tried to sell me the controller and RAM at the suggested retail price, the other quoted me a price for the 6518RD (with RAM) of approximately $50 less than the suggested retail price for the controller alone. This price with 64MB of cache was approximately $300 more than the equivalent Mylex ExtremeRaid with 32MB of cache. Prices fluctuate due to new product introductions, etc., but these relative prices will probably remain similar. Thus, for low-end RAID you may wish to look at competing devices, bearing in mind that most vendors do not have the Linux experience and range of support that ICP has.

Conclusions

The robustness, transparency and ability to present multiple drives as a single volume to the Linux SCSI layer makes hardware RAID a must for situations requiring high availability and large amounts of disk storage.

Within the hardware RAID market, the ICP GDT line stands out as the most complete set of RAID solutions available for Linux. Other vendors have single-channel RAID controllers for Linux, but multi-channel RAID controllers are still a rare bird in the Linux market. No other vendor at the time of this writing offers fibre-channel RAID solutions for Linux.

The ICP GDT line also stands out as one of the most robust RAID solutions in the Linux market. In part, this is because ICP ported their gdtmon utility to Linux, allowing handling of hot swap and failover situations without having to reboot to DOS like you must in order to reconfigure most competing devices. Much of it is because the ICP team has engineered their product to be as safe as possible.

Unfortunately, this does come with a cost. The ICP RAID controllers are not the cheapest. For a single-channel controller, you may wish to look into competing devices from Mylex, AMI or Adaptec, bearing in mind that their support for Linux is relatively recent and incomplete. For multi-channel controllers or fibre channel RAID, there is no argument at all. ICP Vortex is the RAID solution for Linux in those markets.

Eric Lee Green (eric@estinc.com) is the systems and networking guru for Enhanced Software Technologies Inc., “The Bru Guys”.

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