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Context:

I'm speccing out a server for work, and one of the requirements is that it will have a bunch of SATA HDDs RAID 5-ed together. We need some sort of SSD caching solution for high performance, as we are building the new server to solve disk latency and throughput issues. I know that LSI has its CacheCade SSD caching solution, and Adaptec has a competitor called MaxCache, implemented in cards like the 9265-8i and (more affordably) the 2405Q.

Question:

Do these SSD caching solutions work exclusively at the hardware level? That is, can I plug in a SAS card which supports MaxCache or CacheCade, and configure the array and the SSD caching in the BIOS, before I boot an OS? I know that the after-boot management tools for these RAID cards allow configuration of SSD caching, and that post-boot utilities are typically better than the BIOS-based ones, but I'd like to be able to configure caching before booting. If MaxCache or CacheCade don't support this, is there another hardware-based SSD caching solution I should investigate?

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As far as Adaptec controllers are concerned, you can configure the SSD for maxcache in the BIOS of the controller even when an operating system installation has not been completed. This is true of the controllers identified by the Q on the model name (2405Q, 5805Q and 5805ZQ, 6805q and 6805TQ). However, if you are intending to configure a RAID 5 array, you would need to use a series 5 or series 6 model. The Series 2, as well as Series 6E models, supports RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 1E RAID 10 and JBODs.

Series 5 and regular Series 6 controllers support all RAID levels including RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 1E RAID 10, RAID 5, RAID 5EE, RAID 50, RAID 6, RAID 60 and JBODs.

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For LSI cards, CacheCade can be set up and configured/enabled/disabled/etc entirely within the card's BIOS, before booting any operating system.

Tested on my old 9260-4i.

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