PCI-X SATA Card + Server Recommendation

Jeremy Chadwick koitsu at FreeBSD.org
Sun Oct 26 12:50:19 UTC 2008


On Sun, Oct 26, 2008 at 02:48:16AM -0400, Charles Sprickman wrote:
> Hello all,
>
> I have two questions regarding hardware support for two servers.  One is  
> an older Supermicro with a X5DPR-iG2+ mainboard, the other is a 
> suggestion for a brand new box that is well-supported...  Both boxes will 
> be in a co-lo, so stuff needs to not be "quirky".
>
> First the old box.  I need an SATA controller, non-RAID.  I'll be using  
> gmirror.  I have PCI-X slots, so I'd like to go with a PCI-X controller.  
> There seem to be very few out there, and this one keeps popping up  
> everywhere:
>
> http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16816124014
>
> The comments there mention the chip is a Silicon Image 3124, but I don't  
> know if I can trust a random NewEgg user.

That card does in fact use a Silicon Image chip -- I've confirmed by
looking at the PCB itself (you can see the Silicon Image logo printed on
it), and by looking at the Windows drivers:

http://www.adeltek.com/Product%20Manual/PCI%20IO%20CONTROLLER/SD-PCXSA2-2E2R.jpg
http://www.adeltek.com/Product%20Driver/PCI-X%20controller/sd-pcxsa2-2e2r.zip

Stay away from this card.

> Can anyone confirm that controller as working and free of quirks?
> Are there other cards I should be looking at?

I was hoping the X5DPR-iG2+ would have a UIO slot, but it doesn't.  Too
old I guess.  PCI-X is also slowly getting phased out too, so it's
becoming harder to find native PCI-X cards.

These are cards I can recommend for your situation.  Yes, they do RAID,
they all support JBOD; just plug the disks in and go.

http://www.highpoint-tech.com/USA/series_2000.htm
HighPoint RocketRAID 2210  (hptrr(4) driver; be sure to read NOTES)
HighPoint RocketRAID 2220  (hptrr(4) driver; be sure to read NOTES)
HighPoint RocketRAID 2224  (hptrr(4) driver; be sure to read NOTES)
HighPoint RocketRAID 2240  (hptrr(4) driver; be sure to read NOTES)

http://www.areca.com.tw/products/pcix.htm
Areca ARC-1110    (arcmsr(4) driver)
Areca ARC-1120    (arcmsr(4) driver)
Areca ARC-1130    (arcmsr(4) driver)
Areca ARC-1160    (arcmsr(4) driver)
Areca ARC-1130ML  (arcmsr(4) driver)
Areca ARC-1160ML  (arcmsr(4) driver)

The FreeBSD community members who have Areca cards have been thrilled
with them, and *do* use the native RAID features reliably.

Other cards which might work, but there's no confirmation of it, so I
have to assume they aren't supported (in the case of the SX4300, I even
see a mail dated January 2007 from someone asking for support for the
card):

Promise FastTrak SX4300
Promise FastTrak SX8300
Promise SuperTrak EX8300

I'm glad you have good experiences with 3Ware, but as for me, I'm too
wary of their stuff based on a history of firmware bugs/issues.  It's
purely a personal decision of mine, so I don't "slam" 3Ware at all.

> Next, I'm looking for a basic 1U server for light webhosting.  
> Reliability and compatibility are the two main concerns.  I'm very happy 
> with 3Ware RAID cards, so I will likely add that in myself.  The server 
> would optimally already have a hot swap SATA backplane and 4 drive bays.  
> I'm open to the semi-barebones route like the Supermicro servers as well 
> as major vendors like Dell and HP.  Having some type of IP-KVM-like  
> functionality as an option would also be nice, but I'll settle for a  
> serial console.  I'd like to keep this under $2K.

There's a bunch of Supermicro systems which meet your needs.  The first
four are very new, and use the Intel X48 chipset.  I don't know of any
FreeBSD people using the X7SBU board, but I'm sure there are some.

http://www.supermicro.com/products/system/1U/
Supermicro SuperServer 5015B-URB   (~US$975)
Supermicro SuperServer 5015B-NTRB  (~US$975)
Supermicro SuperServer 5015B-UB    (~US$785)
Supermicro SuperServer 5015B-NTB   (~US$785)
Supermicro SuperServer 5015B-MTB   (~US$655)

bsdhwmon(8) supports the 5015B-MTB (X7SBi), but doesn't support the
others (X7SBU).  If someone out there has an X7SBU, please get in
touch with me so I can add support for it!

Specifically with regards to the 5015B-MTB: note no floppy drive.
Supermicro replaced it with a front-panel USB/COM port thingus, which
can be removed and replaced with a floppy drive (purchased from a
distributor).  I believe the front is COM2, while the rear is COM1.

"Why do I care about floppy drives?"  I don't usually... except some
Supermicro boards have compatibility problems with certain
brand/model/revisions of USB flash drives.  You can read about my
experience (and my interaction with engineering) on my blog:

http://koitsu.wordpress.com/2008/04/05/supermicro-pdsmi-bios-bugs/
http://koitsu.wordpress.com/2008/04/26/supermicro-pdsmi-bios-bugs-part-2/
http://koitsu.wordpress.com/2008/07/10/supermicro-pdsmi-bios-bugs-finale/

Regarding KVM-over-IP: the Supermicro boards support an IPMI card add-on
which does this, but I **highly** recommend avoiding it.  I know guys
over at Yahoo who complain constantly about these cards being flaky
(mostly card firmware bugs), people on the mailing lists have stated
this, and folks on #bsdports as well.  Go with serial if possible.  But
if you do have to get the IPMI card, buy one which has a dedicated NIC;
DO NOT buy one which "piggybacks" on top of an on-board NIC, it will
only cause you problems.

If you really want a KVM-over-IP solution, consider a KVM-over-IP device
like ones from Aten; they'll work with anything.

-- 
| Jeremy Chadwick                                jdc at parodius.com |
| Parodius Networking                       http://www.parodius.com/ |
| UNIX Systems Administrator                  Mountain View, CA, USA |
| Making life hard for others since 1977.              PGP: 4BD6C0CB |



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