Manufacturers of hard drives have been quick to notice the benefits that the technology will offer, and many released Ultra160 drives before there was even a hint of the host adapter.
Upon unpacking the Adaptec 29160 card for the first time, you could easily mistake it for a normal Ultra2 LVD card, as the 68-pin connector is common to both standards. However, the 64-bit PCI connector gives a hint that something is a little different. It is also worth pointing out that, similar to other 64-bit cards, it will work in a 32-bit slot but at the slower 32-bit mode.
Another anomaly that we found on the card was the fact that there are two internal 68-pin connectors, and one 50-pin connector. Considering that the 29160 is a single channel card, we found this a little strange.
However, after swallowing our pride and referring to the user manual it transpired that the card divides the connectors into a primary and secondary segment. This segmentation of the card allows newer LVD devices (Ultra2 and Ultra 160) to run at full speed off the primary segment, while legacy (Ultra) devices can run at speeds of up to 40Mbytes per second. Without this, if an Ultra device was plugged in, the whole channel would be reduced to the maximum legacy speed of 40Mbytes per second.
The primary segment, which is electronically isolated from the secondary includes the external and first 68-pin connector. The secondary segment handles the second 68-pin connector, and the 50-pin connector.
Adaptec is the only company that offers this kind of technology - something it refers to as Speedflex, and with it you are able to combine new technologies with legacy on the same host adapter, without degrading performance.
In an effort to see the card perform at its best we installed it on a Dell PowerEdge 6300 server. The quad Xeon processors, and 64-bit PCI bus ensured that the machine would cope with whatever throughput the card could throw at it. Of course, the first thing that we had to do was install the card into the machine. As with any adapter card it's just a matter of plugging the card into a free expansion slot - after only a few seconds we were ready to power the server up.
The Post showed that the card had been found, and that it was detecting the hard drive we had plugged in. Unfortunately, the machine then tried to boot off the SCSI card and its unformatted hard drive instead of the internal Raid controller.
This wasn't really a problem and we simply entered the card's Bios to stop it from happening again. If you have ever used an Adaptec card before, then the Bios will seem very familiar. A screen full of options relate to which SCSI ID we wished to boot off, and whether a cards Bios is, or should be, enabled. With the Bios set correctly we booted into Windows NT, and through the SCSI option in the control panel, we could install the drivers. One reboot later and the new card and disk drive where operating without a problem.
While testing the host adapter we did run into one problem with a Quantum Atlas IV drive. Although the SCSI Bios recognised it as an Ultra160 device, Windows NT could not see the drive at all. In fact, from this point on even the SCSI Bios could not detect it until the power had been cycled.
It soon became clear, however, that the problem was with the drive itself as it required a firmware upgrade to work correctly. It's worth noting that some older devices could conceivably run into problems with the Ultra160 card.Although we didn't really experience any problems getting the card up and running, before you rush out and buy one a few questions need to be addressed. The most obvious of these is whether or not you really require the extra bandwidth.
If you are not running many devices off of an Ultra2 LVD card, then the odds are that you will not notice much of a performance increase. If you have lots, or are at least planning to use a lot, of Ultra160 drives, then this card will be an excellent addition to your network.
Contact Adaptec (01276) 854500, www.adaptec-europe.com