What is a good choice of sata-ii raid controller for freebsd?

Charles Sprickman spork at bway.net
Thu Feb 8 21:35:11 UTC 2007

On Thu, 8 Feb 2007, Jeremy Chadwick wrote:

> On Thu, Feb 08, 2007 at 02:04:09PM -0500, Mike Tancsa wrote:
>> There is the pass0 interface, but not sure what you can
>> set.  Smartmon doesnt seem to work, or at least I havent used it.
>> Here is what you get via the cli tool for disk info
>> # ./cli32 "disk smart drv=1"
>> {snip}
> Excellent -- this is the exact kind of information which is needed.
> It appears the utility can indeed obtain all SMART statistics from
> the drive, rather than just an overview: awesome.
>> Yes.  Its not as nice as the 3ware (I have done LOTS of those and my
>> heart remains at normal levels when I change out dead drives...) I am
>> still a little nervous with the Areca, but it has worked so far on
>> the couple that I have done.
> Based on past readings about 3Ware controllers, I have a tendancy
> to avoid them.  Here's some history I base my opinions on (and a
> small bit based on feedback I've gotten from people at Rackable):
> http://marc2.theaimsgroup.com/?l=freebsd-hardware&m=112195259113670&w=2
> http://lists.freebsd.org/pipermail/freebsd-stable/2005-October/018673.html
> http://lists.freebsd.org/pipermail/freebsd-stable/2004-September/008655.html
> http://lists.freebsd.org/pipermail/freebsd-current/2004-September/036251.html
>  (see rwatson's comment in this one)

Those all seem like very old threads.  I have not seen any complaints of 
late.  It's my understanding that like Areca, 3Ware has an employee with 
commit privs in FreeBSD.  Perhaps someone else can clarify what the 
relationship is.

> Now, those reported issues could be a number of things, but firmware
> issues seem to stand out like a sore thumb.  Also, a lot of my
> information is in regards to the 7xxx series, which is "quite old".
> I'm assuming everyone now is using the 9xxx series, and I have no
> idea what those are like.

They kick ass is what they are like. :)

I had a 3U box with a 12 port controller sitting next to my desk for a few 
weeks and my only goal was to confuse/break the 3Ware controller.  No 
amount of power plug pulling, pulling multiple drives, quickly 
re-arranging drives could confuse the controller.  Made the SCSI stuff we 
use look like absolute neurotic junk.

The firmware seems very solid, at least in it's fault recovery logic.

While I'm not a big fan of web interfaces, the (native) one from 3Ware 
actually makes some tasks easier.  It even supports SSL out of the box 
(yes, my expectations are low to get excited about that).

The things that steered me away from Areca, which was the other SATA-II 
product we were considering were:

-They added a moving part (2-wire fan, no tach) to a "mission-critical" 
part.  That seems real stupid.  After the bearings die in 2-3 years, what 
happens to your card?  Does it melt or just start acting weird?  If the 
engineers didn't consider that, what other failure modes did their limited 
creativity miss? :)

-Availability.  None of our normal dealers could get them.

-Not many people seemed to be using them, so less feedback available and 
the whole package (hardware/firmware/driver) has less exposure than 3Ware.

-3Ware answered pre-sales questions, Areca didn't.

Performance and feature-wise the Areca and 3Ware seemed pretty close, so 
we went with 3Ware.

That's just my $0.02.

> There's no need for compat4x because the binary is statically linked.
> Not to be sore about it, but I'm questioning a vendor who only builds
> tools on 4.x machines (surely they *test* their controllers on 5/6.x
> and -CURRENT, so why is the management utility for 4.x?)

As you should.  The message sent is that they either don't care about 
5.x/6.x, are confused about FreeBSD in general, or are exceedingly lazy.

> I'm used to the big boys: Intel, EMC, Adaptec, Sun, Network Appliance
> (if they fall into this category) and Promise, so you'll have to
> excuse my ignorance.


That said, I've also recently went with gmirror on two boxes where I just 
needed a 2 unit mirror.  No problems yet.

Another poster mentioned that a gmirror advantage is that you can take 
drives from one box to another.  That is of course true, but in the case 
of 3Ware you can do this if you have a two disk mirror - I tested it to 
confirm.  All the raid info gets stuffed at the end of the disk.  I had no 
problems taking a drive out of the 3Ware and plugging it directly into an 
SATA port on the mainboard and booting...


> Thanks.
> -- 
> | 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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