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:


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.

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)

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

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.

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:


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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