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With more people needing faster access to more data at lower prices, the pressure to evolve the 6Gb/s SAS ecosystem is growing and LSI is helping to lead the way with its latest controller cards and host bus adapters. And its chosen route to market is the channel, says LSI’s Suresh Panikar, senior manager, worldwide channel marketing.

"Six months ago LSI decided to actively, efficiently and effectively play in the channel marketplace." The company recognized there was a segment of the marketplace that was becoming popular, going to smaller companies for storage solutions.

LSI identified a set of customers, including thousands of system integrators and resellers, who bought storage products in ones or twos, and another set that bought in thousands of units. It introduced a reseller program to help them sell better. Next the company decided to provide building blocks for this channel, starting with MegaRAID using 6Gb/s technology, followed by HBAs last September. "Now we’re announcing an expansion and introduction of a whole new brand, under the 3ware brand which we purchased last April."

The product introductions include a new family of 3ware RAID controller cards and MegaRAID controller cards and host bus adapters. Designed for inside-the-box connectivity, the low-profile 3ware RAID controllers feature the LSISAS2108 6Gb/s SAS RAID-on-Chip (ROC) and are available in four- and eight-port configurations, from $389 to $645. They deliver up to 2.5 GB/s in sequential read and 1.1 GB/s in sequential write performance, more than doubling the data transfer rates of the previous generation products. Intended to protect customers’ existing storage investments, they integrate easily with existing 3Gb/s SATA and SAS infrastructures.

The first 6Gb/s controller cards in the MegaRAID entry line, the four-port SAS 9240-4i and eight-port SAS 9240-8i cards are targeted at high-performance workstations and entry-level servers requiring RAID functionality at affordable prices. New additions to the value and feature MegaRAID controllers are the eight-port MegaRAID SAS 9261-8i and the SAS 9280-4i4e, which supports both internal storage and external JBOD expansion with four internal and four external ports. Prices range from $229 to $785, with the value and feature additions shipping now, while the entry-level products will ship next month.

LSI has also expanded its 6Gb/s SAS-based HBA family to support both high bandwidth and input/output-intensive applications and offer the flexibility to connect to 3Gb/s and 6Gb/s SATA and SAS hard drives or solid-state drives. The SAS 9200-16e ($619) is a sixteen-port 6Gb/s PCI Express SATA+SAS HBA that reportedly delivers the industry’s highest level of external connectivity. It supports up to 1024 SATA and SAS physical devices, expanding storage capacities up to two petabytes. The SAS 9212-4i4e ($309) supports up to 256 SATA and SAS physical devices.

Panikar says LSI now has the broadest line of available products for various markets identified by SIs. The high-volume segment currently consists of 30-40 partners who are being serviced by a very high-touch model. There are another 4,000 companies in the mass segment that LSI is encouraging to grow to higher and higher levels. "My expectation is that the 40 will grow, perhaps to as many as 100, but no more."

Right now, the bulk of the activity in 6Gb/s SAS is to use them in 3Gb/s systems and wait for the 6Gb/s infrastructure to arrive, says Panikar. "They see an advantage because the price is not much different from 3Gb/s — RAID controllers and HBAs — and they’re waiting for the total 6Gb/s to arrive."