Storage Upgrade Stage 3 - Building Butters#

Finally, after two weekends and hours of work, I get to do what I started out trying to do - building a six drive RAID 5 array out of terabyte hard drives. Cartman's old 5U case was all cleared out, I had all the components, now all I had to do was assemble the beast. I had a little problem with the Adaptec 3805 controller.

The 3805 is actually an SAS controller, using the mini-SAS plugs that handle four drives each. On the web site the specification says that the board comes with a pair of mini-SAS to SATA cables, but there were no such cables in my box. Turns out I had ordered the OEM version of the board (the only one available), and it had no cables in it - which makes sense, its an OEM board, the OEM is always going to want to do something unique with the board.

Fine, I'll order my own cables. But NOBODY has stock on mini-SAS cables. I flip out at the supplier, and he calls Adaptec, and they offer to give me a pair of cables for free (which was mighty nice of them), if I'll pay the shipping. Totally worth it, I had ordered the wrong product and they were willing to fix it. A FedEx overnight shipment later, I had cables.

There's so much room in the 5U case that things came together rather quickly. The motherboard dropped in without a hitch, as did the drive array caddy. Then came the tricky bit...

The drives don't fit!Like Cartman, Butters has a separate pair of mirrored boot drives, although in this case the drives are 7200rpm SATA II drives, rather than the Ultra-160 SCSI drives of Cartman.

In the 5U case, the boot drives hang from the card retaining bar... and the first hitch of the build occurs. In a test hanging (shown to the right), the pair of drives hit the CPU fans. This is bad.

When a situation like this arises, first you curse. Then the full reality of the situation hits - all the work you've done for the past few days may have been for naught, this machine won't fit into this case.

I ran into the same issue with Cartman during his rebuild, I had to modify the cooling blocks to use lower-profile fans to avoid conflicting with the hanging hard drives. But I didn't have that option this time... no handy low-profile fans, no alternative cooling blocks. I needed a different solution.

Solution - move the drives.And here's the solution - move the drives. It's not like the new machine is full of cards anyway, it has exactly one, the Adaptec 3805 raid controller. And that card is low-profile anyway.

So I removed all the card holders from the bar and moved the mounting bracket so that the drives would hang away from the CPU fans. Problem solved. 

That was really the only hitch in the assembly of Butters, and it only took me a few minutes to solve it. I like this new drive position better, it puts the drives right inline with the main fan, so there'll be plenty of cooling air coming over those drives.

 A little more fussing with wiring and I was on my way with a successful boot of the new motherboard...

IMG_7870_small Notice that I plugged one of the 1TB drives into the machine as well, getting ready for the transfer of all that data back onto a shiny new 5TB array.

Ah, if only it was that easy. First I had to get a server install done. Which you think would be easy - a brand new motherboard, it should be no problem to get things up and going with Windows Server 2003, right?


Since I was planning to use this machine to run virtual machines, of course I wanted a 64 bit operating system on it - there's 16GB of RAM in there, how else would I address it all?

So I installed Windows Server 2003 SP2 64 bit edition. And the installation went cleanly, but didn't recognize the pair of built-in gigabit NICs. I wasn't all that surprised, after all, brand new motherboard, I'd need to install the drivers separately. Now if only I could find them.

On the Tyan web site you can see all sorts of drivers for the S2927, including drivers for Windows 2003 Server 64 bit, so you'd think there would be NIC drivers there. In fact, under the heading "Driver Packs" there is a pack for Windows 2003 Server 64 bit which SAYS it has LAN/NIC drivers. However, if you actually download it, there's no NIC drivers in there. In fact, if you open up the zip file, the README doc lists everything in the driver pack and it does NOT include the NIC drivers.

I tried installing it anyway, but to no avail - the NICs were still unrecognized.

However, the Adaptec software worked great AND the 5TB array was able to be built. But it was going to take more than 24 hours to prep itself, so it was worth tinkering with other configurations before settling for this.

So I headed over to the nVidia site... perhaps the reference drivers for the nVidia chipset would handle the NICs better. The chipset on this motherboard is the nVidia nForce Professional 3600 series. And lo and behold, there ARE reference drivers for Windows 2003 Server 64 bit. But they TOO could not recognize the NICs.

I even tried the prerelease tool on the download page to detect what drivers to use, and it recommended the Vista drivers! Figuring it couldn't be any worse, I tried them too... and this time the NICs were recognized, but were not functioning.

So now I'm afraid - afraid that my motherboard is defective. But now that I have nothing to lose I thought "what the heck, let's try Windows 2008 Server!" I had Release Candidate 0 handy, it was worth a shot.

Windows 2008 Server RC0 is a massive 2.5GB, I had to make a DVD for the install. But it installed flawlessly and recognized the motherboard, including the NICs. I was fully operational. And Windows 2008 Server is beautiful... but its a release candidate!

So now my motherboard was working perfectly, I installed the Adaptec RAID controller software. It installed, recognized the controller AND the drives. For the first time I had everything working, admittedly on a release candidate. How could I resist? I configured the 5TB array and let it rip.

The build ran overnight and finished perfectly. I had a 5TB drive array!

I shutdown Butters, closed it up and stuck it in the rack.

Powered it up again, but when it booted, there was no drive array! I rebooted again, still no array. What was going on? Pulled Butters back out of the rack, opened it up, booted it again... still no array.

I went into the 3805 BIOS to configure the array and it didn't show up until I selected "Refresh Array." Then it showed the complete array, in perfect condition!

Baffled, I exited the BIOS settings which caused a reboot... and the array vanished again. This time when I finished booting into Windows, I opened up the Adaptec configuration manager... it showed a failed controller and failed drivers. I selected "Refresh Array", and it still showed as everything failed - but Windows suddenly found the array! The drive letter popped up and everything acted fine.

Oddly enough, I was a bit suspicious.

So I started loading data onto the array. I wasn't going to erase any backups, so I waited for it to fail.

Loading went much faster than backing up, since the drive was plugged directly into the machine. Within a few hours, I had everything reloaded.

I was still suspicious.

I configured the file shares and got both the music and television archives up and running. They worked perfectly.

Now I really had a problem - I was running a release candidate OS, the configuration software says the array has failed (although the BIOS says its fine, once you refresh), but Windows itself is perfectly happy with it. And my family was happy to have the music and video back online. I couldn't very well take it back down. As long as it didn't reboot, the array seemed to stay up. Scary.

I sent a tech support request to Tyan, hopefully they'll have something useful to say. I really ought to go back to Windows 2003 Server 64 bit, but only if I can get the NICs to work.

Sunday, October 14, 2007 4:33:23 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) #    Comments [1]  | 


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