Broadcom RAID Controllers: Expand as You Go

The BC4410 four-port controller and BC4810 eight-port controller, like most entry-level RAID controllers, support RAID 0, RAID 1 and RAID 10, said Mark Taylor, director of RAID product marketing at the Irvine, Calif.-based company. However, customers can purchase a low-cost software key when they need to upgrade to RAID 5 capability, he said.

Solution providers benefit by not having to stock both entry-level and high-end RAID controllers.

"For small businesses, RAID 0, 1 and 10 are good enough in most cases," he said. "But if you later need RAID 5, you have to replace the card. Or you have to buy the expensive RAID 5 card in the first place. When starting with RAID 0, 1 or 10, a four-port controller gives two ports for primary storage and two for mirrored. So RAID 5 becomes a more efficient use of hard drives and offers better data integrity."

Under Broadcom's "pay as you go" RAID controller program, end users pay $129 for the 4410 or $205 for the 4810. Then, starting in July, if they are ready for RAID 5, they pay $180 for the software key, Taylor said.

He said such prices, when combined with the cost of the upgrade, are several hundred dollars less than the cost of purchasing a RAID 5 controller. In addition, since the only change when upgrading to RAID 5 is in the software, it is not necessary to power down the server or migrate data, he said.

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Solution providers benefit from the new controllers by not having to stock both entry-level and high-end RAID controllers, Taylor said. "And if customers need help, VARs can send a less-costly, lower-level technician to help with the implementation, including offloading the data and installing the new software," he said.

Pat Taylor, co-founder of Proactive Technologies, a Carrollton, Texas-based system builder, said he is not so sure the ability to upgrade to RAID 5 is that big of a deal, as the low cost of Serial ATA storage makes mirroring of storage more affordable than in the past. "With SATA, if you want mirrored storage, you can do it," he said.

That said, Broadcom's approach makes sense as it means customers don't have to pay extra for functionality they do not need, he added.

Both controllers are expected to ship in July via Bell Microproducts and D&H Distributing.