Tag: LSI

Mercury gets a HBA upgrade

mercury.elemental.org is the server which hosts my $HOME and this website. It’s my Solaris 10 play-box, and I guess you can say that maintaining it is something of a hobby.

Its hardware is a quad core Xeon-equipped Dell PowerEdge 860, a small 1u server. Its pair of internal drives are Seagate SATA2, and were connected to the on-board Intel ICH7-based SATA controller. But there was something fishy about this in that the Solaris ahci SATA driver never attached to it and instead the drives ran in IDE mode. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t change this. I eventually found out the reason – Dell crippled the SATA controller in the system BIOS to allow only IDE mode!

So this server was sold with “SATA drives”, which would imply a fully functioning SATA controller to drive them… but not quite. IDE mode means there were no benefits of SATA NCA and other niceties.

To fix this, I got a LSI SAS3041E-R controller – a 4x PCIe card that uses the LSISAS1064E chipset and offers 4 SATA ports. In Solaris land, this card would be driven by the mpt driver, a proven driver as the LSI SAS 1064 and 1068 chipsets are used to drive the on-board hard drives in pretty much every current Sun x86 and Niagara-based SPARC systems.

I installed this card in the single 8x PCIe slot in the PE860, and ran a 24″ SATA cable from it to HDD1, and used the existing Dell cable that connected the on-board controller to HDD1 to connect HDD0 to the card. After some fiddling in /boot/solaris/bootenv.rc to tell the kernel the new device path to its boot drive, the mpt driver attached and I was good to go.

I kicked off a SVM mirror resync as a basic test of sequential IO, and I hit 75MB/s reading from one drive and writing to the other. Not bad. A zpool scrub of my mirrored ZFS pool of 66.5GB of data (pool is 444GB in size) took just over an hour.

So if you’re thinking about a 4 or 8 port SAS/SATA card, consider the LSI SAS3041 or SAS3080/3081 cards, respectively. Both come in PCI-X and PCIe flavors and are supported by Solaris (and OpenSolaris) just fine.

/usr/X11/bin/scanpci output:

Kernel boot messages:

The state of enterprise storage for the Little Guy

Earlier this month I spewed some vitriol over an unpleasant discovery regarding the Sun StorageTek 6140 array and its underwhelming out-of-the-box feature set (which, three weeks later, remains an unresolved issue even after contacting and working with my VAR, Sun sales rep-proper, and two Sun SEs. Sigh) (NOTE: As of 8 Feb this issue has been resolved). This whole issue was over the sneaky renaming of a feature commonly known as LUN Masking and charging beaucoup bucks for it as a license-activated addon.

Well, I want to write some more about this with an industry-wide perspective because as of this past Thursday, Apple is now playing a similar game regarding their Xserve RAID systems. With the release of RAID Admin Tools 1.5.1 and associated firmware, Apple has removed LUN Masking as a feature of the Xserve RAID. Yep. Removed it. In a minor version release of the software, no less. Absolutely astonishing.

So, with the Sun StorageTek 6140 and its crippled features (unless you fork over $10+ mega bucks for a Storage Domains license pack of adquate seat count) and Apple rather brashly removing LUN Masking for no real stated reason and, to top it off, without warning, where does this leave us? And what of the (otherwise reputable) mid-range storage vendors who are left (HP? IBM?); who’s to say they won’t pull a similar stunt down the line?

Well, I know IBM is out of the picture for me as they OEM the same LSI Engenio system that Sun uses for the 6140. Yep, both IBM and Sun sell the exact same system, only IBM calls it the DS4700 Express and Sun calls their version the StorageTek 6140. Their only appreciable difference is one comes in IBM Black and the other in Sun Silver. You also have to buy the IBM equivalent of the 6140’s Storage Domains, which IBM calls “Partitions”. Talk about a screwed up sense of storage terminology.

Anyway, that pretty much leaves HP, and I’m petty unfamiliar with their product line or prices. I don’t even know if I can even get HP kit since I’m not aware of any current State of Maryland purchasing contract with them for this sort of stuff.

So what’s with this apparent vendor hate of LUN Masking in mid-range systems, anyway? One either has to pay out the nose to have it (regarding Sun and IBM) or it’s there but disappears into the night (Apple). Crikey. Whoever does product planning at Engenio, Sun, IBM, and Apple needs a serious reality check. For us people where mid-range is high-end, this behavior matters quite a bit. It just seems like feature sets are imploding rather than expanding, removing a distinct competitive advantage from these products.