PCI-X SATA Card + Server Recommendation

Jeremy Chadwick koitsu at FreeBSD.org
Sun Oct 26 20:49:37 UTC 2008

On Sun, Oct 26, 2008 at 03:30:11PM -0400, Charles Sprickman wrote:
> On Sun, 26 Oct 2008, Jeremy Chadwick wrote:
>> 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)
> Ouch.  I was thinking more along the lines of a dead-simple SATA card in  
> the under $50 range.  I'm not up at all on PCI-X stuff, but I assume I 
> can go with a normal PCI card, right?  Or 64-bit PCI (or is that PCI-X)?  
> What kind of performance hit would I have going from a PCI-X card to 
> something else, and if I remove the PCI-X restriction, is there another 
> recommended card?

Any PCI 2.x or 3.x revision card should work fine in a PCI-X slot.  Of
course, the card will only run at 33MHz 32-bit (vs. 133MHz 64-bit, which is
what native PCI-X is), but it'll still work.  Most PCI cards are 32-bit
33MHz, but a 64-bit 33MHz PCI card should also work.

The only PCI 1.x cards will probably fry your motherboard; they use a 5V
bus, not a 3.3V bus.  :-)

This doesn't apply to your situation, but it's good knowledge for others
who are reading:

You can also use a PCI-X card in a PCI slot -- some of the connector
pins will "hang off" the end of the slot without worry -- but ONLY IF
the PCI-X card specifically states it works in 32-bit 33MHz mode.  The
specsheet/manual will state something like this; it if doesn't, don't
risk it.

>> 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.
> I looked at those last time I was shopping.  The only thing that really  
> bugged me about them was the fan on the card.  I know that sounds silly,  
> but when you're spending 4 figures and a $3 fan is what's keeping the 
> card from frying, and you can't monitor that fan...  I just didn't like 
> that.

Regarding the fan -- the card has RPM monitoring of the on-board fan,
and it's reported inside of the card BIOS, as well as the CLI utilities.
Also, the user manual states the following:

Included in the product box is a field replaceable passive
heatsink to be used only if there is enough airflow to adequately
cool the passive heatsink.

The "Controller Fan Detection" function is available in the
version 1.36 date: 2005-05-19 and later for preventing the
Buzzer warning. When using the passive heatsink, disable the
"Controller Fan Detection" function through this McBIOS RAID
manager setting.

The following screen shot shows how to change the McBIOS
RAID manager setting to disable the beeper function. (This
function is not available in the web browser setting.)

I believe this means, assuming you set up monitoring of the card
properly, you can monitor fan RPMs, and also get an alert if the
fan dies (presumably RPM == 0, or possibly RPM < 250).  There's
an audible buzzer (see above) which also gets emit if the fan dies.

Finally, tihe Areca CLI utilities are FreeBSD-native and do not require
Linux emulation.  I refuse to buy any card or software which requires
such -- absolutely preposterous in this day and age.  (I'm looking at
you, Brother (printer manufacturer))

> We have one Supermicro at a client site with the IPMI card.  A total 
> waste of money.  It was/is flakey as hell and not something we rely on at 
> all. I'd never even look at IPMI again.

IPMI -- great in concept, *horribly* implemented because there's really
no "standard" to how all these vendors do it.

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

In reply to my own comment, there's something I should mention about
KVM-over-IP switches: "virtual media" support.

They all require a USB connection between the KVM-over-IP switch and the
host system.  That made me pretty much ignore "virtual media" with such
switches, but all the rest of the features are useful.

Also, there's a huge problem with KVM-over-IP that isn't immediately
thought of until one is actually in the situation (and I've witnessed
this twice in private mails when helping other FreeBSD users):
KVM-over-IP switches remove your ability to copy/paste data from the VGA
console into, say, an Email.  If you're needing to debug something in a
bootloader or in the kernel and it requires more than a page of output,
you're kinda screwed (what're you going to do, take 50 photos with a
digital camera as fast as the screen scrolls?).  Just something to keep
in mind for those who might be considering this route.

> I'm a bit intrigued by the Dell and HP add-in cards that are NOT IPMI, 
> but do offer a full remote console.  The cost appears to be about the 
> same as an IPMI card.  I've never bought either brand before though, and 
> I have no idea how well supported these things are under FreeBSD 
> (especially their own branded RAID controllers).
> Dell PowerEdge R200 (upgrade CPU to C2D or Xeon, add RAID, add DRAC card) 
> - around $1500
> http://configure.us.dell.com/dellstore/config.aspx?oc=becwuk1&c=us&l=en&s=bsd&cs=04&kc=category~rack_optimized
> The DRAC card, which has it's own ethernet port and supports booting from 
> an ISO, etc.:
> http://accessories.us.dell.com/sna/products/Networking_Communication/productdetail.aspx?c=us&l=en&s=bsd&cs=04&sku=313-2822
> On the HP side, the DL160 looks interesting as well.  Like the Dell, info 
> on the RAID controllers is pretty slim.  Here's their "lights out"  
> management option:
> http://h30094.www3.hp.com/product.asp?sku=3778577
> Apparently it's already on the server, and you license advanced features. 
> Probably a shared NIC situation...

iLO/iLO2 = Integrated Lights-Out (v2), which means the remote management
chip is on-board, rather than requiring purchase of an add-in card.

LOM/LOM2 are terms for the older systems which require the actual
external card.

The best remote management I've ever seen has been on HP/Compaq Proliant
systems with iLO/LOM/LOM2.  Downright one of the most useful features
I've ever seen.  It was a total trip seeing an ex-roommate of mine sit
in our living room with his Windows laptop, installing Red Hat onto a
server in Australia, using the Red Hat CD in his laptop, while having
pure control over the system even before it boots.  That is *absolutely*
how it should be done.  Of course, the "virtual media" feature of
the iLO often requires a license of some kind, which costs $$$.

Regarding shared NIC on iLO: absolutely not.  HP/Compaq knows better
than this.  All the iLO stuff has a pure dedicated NIC.  See "Rear panel
components" in the service guide manual, note item #11:


On the other hand, IMHO, HP/Compaq hardware is *incredibly* overpriced
for no justified reason.  And if I remember right, you're forced to buy
all of your H/W from them (hard disks, cards, RAM, whatever).  The iLO
is one thing which is truly remarkable about their hardware.

| 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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