I am trying to consolidate content from a number of Buffalo and Drobo NAS units into a single Windows 2008 Server as direct attached storage (there is currently about 11 TB of content and it is growing on a regular basis). I would like to use 8 ea 2 TB drives in a desktop tower case with either RAID 5 or RAID 6. One of the key goals here is to keep cost to a minimum, and I would like to reduce the management complexity to a single machine instead of NAS. Does anyone have experience with using a low-end RAID controller in a similar capacity, or see problems with this approach?
When building my own equipment, I am a huge fan of 3ware RAID controllers. This is because they come with an excellent warranty, are cross-platform compatible, and have the best track record of keeping your data intact. Unfortunately, they are the most expensive.
When purchasing equipment premade, I use Dell. Dell configures all of their equipment with SPARC controllers, which are decent and can fit within a lower budget. I am not sure if you can directly order SPARC controllers or if you have to be an OEM.
The type of card you buy is really going to ultimately depend on your computer build. Tower server vs. rackmount server. 1U vs 2U. Hotswappable or not. If you are not really sure what you are doing, I would consider taking a look over at www.siliconmechanics.com and custom building your server via their web tool. Depending on what you want to do, their website will let you configure different builds with various RAID controllers from different manufacturers.
Edit - here is a Xeon server which should be a good starting point for deciding on your RAID controller. (Select the PCI expansion drop downs for the RAID controller options). http://www.siliconmechanics.com/i22738/dual-xeon-server.php
Something to consider, regardless of RAID controller: I would use Western Digital drives over Seagate right now, as the past year has been full of issues with Seagates drives regarding RAID operations. Also, make sure you order "enterprise" drives, not "desktop".