Sandybridge Z68 versus Ivy Bridge Z77 motherboards, LSI 9265-8i versus 9266-8i RAID adapters: would I change how I'd build vZilla this year?

Posted by Paul Braren on Mar 25 2012 (updated on Jan 5 2015) in
  • CPU
  • Motherboard
  • Virtualization
  • x79-lsi-developments-change-vzilla

    With the LSI 9266-4i/9266-8 RAID adapter expected next month, and new Ivy Bridge motherboards arriving this summer, I've begun to wonder:

    If I was setting out to build my virtualization system today, would I choose different parts than I did back in June of 2011?

    Read/write caching using SSDs seems to be hot right now, in the enterprise (yep, that's my day job), all the way down to the under $200 consumer market, with the Seagate Momentus XT 750GB hybrid drive. That's the 2nd gen 2.5" drive with integrated 8GB SSD-like memory, and a bright future, with a future firmware update for read and write caching, which will benefit our family's macZilla.

    RAID Adapter:

    No new obvious front-runner has succeeded the LSI 9265-8i, from any other vendors as far as I've noticed, so far. I'm still impatiently waiting for the long-promised ability to use SSD read/write caching of my RAID5 array, coming soon in CacheCade 2.0, for read & write caching of my RAID5 array using an SSD. And I'm most definitely not alone.

    With next month's expected release of the LSI 9266-8i, does this change things for fast RAID5 storage compatible with ESXi? Well, it appears the only significantly new aspect of this card is an improved battery backup solution, LSI CacheVault Technology. The physical layout of the board (pictured below) does seem to show an improved connector layout, which could help in 1U server chassis. All other performance related specs apparently remain the same:

    6Gb/s throughput per port, LSISAS2208 Dual Core ROC, 800MHz PowerPC®, 1GB DDRIII cache (1333MHz)

    And a bit more about the 9266-4i / 9266-8i series here:

    Right here at, there have been comments and questions about LSI's RAID and caching terminology, such as this comment. So I've updated the site as well.

    So yeah, as far as RAID, I'd get the 9266-8i with a better cache backup built in. But because it'll be very likely to have identical performance, I have no regrets there, of course.


    So let's move on to the motherboard choice. The free Hyper-V supports 32GB of RAM maximum, which I've obtained fairly affordably with just 4 slots, explained here:

    Back in December, on paper, here's what I figured:
    overall, didn't seem that compelling for my needs, and certainly not worth risking leaving myself on an aging/failing platform for another whole year, leaving me with no lab to train for my VCP5 exam either.

    Flash forward to March 2012, and I get this wonderfully helpful comment, from a reader "Tipo" on March 17 2012:

    ...the P9X79 Pro board worked beautifully. Was able to get the integrated intel nic working great with a 5minute driver fix, and currently have a 6950 I had laying around passed through happily to a Win7-64 client. Not only that, but the HDMI audio works great passed through, as well as the on board 7.1 audio. Top that all off with a passed through USB hub (the rear USB 2.0s - USB 3.0 hubs don't have proper esxi drivers apparently) and I have a working "desktop" vm...while the x79 platform is a little more to buy into, there are definite upsides for vm users. 40 pci-e lanes, 8 dimm slots means very cheap/easy 32gb, and potential sandy bridge 6 core upgrade at a later date if you need.

    So that summary of one user's X79 Sandy Bridge-E chipset sounds promising, glad to start to hear successes of ESXi 5.0 continuing to run well on commodity motherboards. Let's dive a little deeper, and break down what the basic components cost:

    Currently, vZilla's Intel Core i7 2600 Sandy Bridge CPU cost $300, and the ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3 cost $255, about the same as last year.

    Currently, Tipo's least-costly LGA 2011 CPU is the Intel Core i7-3820 for $320, and the ASUS P9X79 PRO Sandy Bridge E motherboard cost $320.

    So, the totals are $555 versus $640, not that different, and some promising results, but the Thermal Design power goes from 95 Watts to 130 Watts. Not sure if that would translate into higher watt burn at idle (which is most of the time). Let's next look a little further into the future.

    ASRock Unveils Jaw-Dropping X79 Extreme11 Motherboard (soon):
    The board comes with two GEN3 PLX 8747 chips allowing for four way setups to run at x16 / x16 / x16/ x16 along with an LSI SAS2308 chip offering us eight SAS ports or eight SATA3 ports which are only part of the 14 total SATA ports on offer with 10 of them being SATA3.

    The board comes with two GEN3 PLX 8747 chips allowing for four way setups to run at x16 / x16 / x16/ x16 along with an LSI SAS2308 chip offering us eight SAS ports or eight SATA3 ports which are only part of the 14 total SATA ports on offer with 10 of them being SATA3.

    Ok, so now things are getting more interesting, with better storage controllers built in, with built-in RAID capabilities on 8 of the plentifaul SATA ports. No hint CacheCade 2.0 would ever work on a RAID5 on this motherboard, but still, interesting, especially if watts drop, as something akin to the roughly 10 watts the 9265-8i perhaps becomes more efficient when nestled right on the mainboard.

    Let's looking even further ahead.

    LSI SAS2308 is now becoming reality on serverboards as replacements for the SAS2008 SAS controllers built onto the motherboard

    ASRock Extreme11 and Tyan S7053 series boards have it built in. Lets hope they enable the abilty for the SAS2308 to use PCIe 3.0

    Now will LSI make a replacement LSI9240 with the SAS2308?

    The next generation of controller will be the SAS3008 (SAS3/SATA4) version of the LSI 9240/9211 range
    And the SAS3108 replacing the SAS2108/2208 as in the LSI9260/9265

    So yes, this all looks quite promising, but only if somehow something like CacheCade 2.0 read and write SSD caching could be enabled on those boards.

    Even further out is the Ivy Bridge (this summer?) boards, with perhaps more news on the storage front at well, here's a peek at ASRock's plans, for example:

    Time will tell if an obvious front-runner cost/performance/vt-d champ for virtualization enthusiasts comes along. It doesn't seem we're quite there yet, although going with a newer socket CPU such as "Tipo" did seems to be a promising choice to consider.

    We won't really know how it goes with Ivy Bridge until somebody actually puts ESXi 5.x on there, hopefully this summer. I certainly look forward to seeing what happens next!