Adding Storage to Big Server
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Author:  mgannon [ Thu Dec 09, 2010 8:27 am ]
Post subject:  Adding Storage to Big Server

Hello, all. The time has come for me to add some storage to Project Northstar. Specs for the current setup can be found on the link below, but suffice it to say that I've used up all 8 on-board SATA ports and am running short on disk space. I could swap out some of my 750gb and 1.0tb drives for 2.0tb drives, but I'm looking for more than "incremental" growth in storage.

Here's my problem. I'm planning to add a 5 in 3 backplane (I have room for two of these, and will probably eventually add a second one). But the mobo I used only has a single PCIe x16 slot, which is already being used for a graphics card. It also has 3 PCIe x1 slots, and 3 standard PCI slots. The other "big server" builders around here seem to prefer the Supermicro SATA controllers, but I can't find one that uses a PCI or PCIe x1 slot. I suppose I could throw a cheap PCI graphics card in the machine and free up my PCIe x16 slot, since the machine only needs the most basic graphics driver.

Does anyone have any recommendations for SATA controllers other than the Supermicro cards that need the big PCI-X slot?

Thanks in advance for any help.

Author:  mksE55 [ Fri Dec 10, 2010 12:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Adding Storage to Big Server

I hate to bring bad news. but if this is a server, then pull the video card out and put a nice 8 port PCI X card in use one of the other PCIe ports for video. you overall system performance will suffer if you try and use PCI cards for your sata II thru put. has alot to chose from. I was looking for another PCIe card for my home unit, Asus had a nice card cheap 4 ports on board. your board I looked at has some PCIe slots that would be your next best bet. the larger slot are for older cards. use the smaller ones. That big monster case of yours will probably need 2 or 3 Sata cards to fill it up. If you purchase some Sata backplane boxes you could even add another 10 drives to the top bays. :mrgreen:

Author:  Comp1962 [ Fri Dec 10, 2010 4:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Adding Storage to Big Server

My HP ProLiant has 2 PCI-X slots and I have populated both with SYBA PCI-X SATA II NCQ HOST CONTROLLER CARDS. They are not all that expensive and they have served me well. They come with 4 internal SATA connections which are port multiplier aware and 2 eSATA connections. The cards are both 32 and 64 bit and are supported by the Sil3124-2 Chip.

According to the documentation these cards are also backwards compatable with PCI. The car is compliant with PCI-X 1.0 specifications.

I purchased my card from Microcenter and have been running them since Feb or Mar this year.

Author:  mgannon [ Thu Dec 16, 2010 8:41 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Adding Storage to Big Server

Ok, here's an update. I went ahead and ordered two of the AOC-SAT2-MV8 cards after reading numerous Newegg reviews (in addition to the post above) which indicated that the card would work in a regular PCI slot even though it is a PCI-X card. Two of my PCI slots have plenty of clear space behind them, and they plugged in with no problems. I booted up the machine, and they were both recognized by the BIOS, and the driver installation went forward with no hitches. :banana: So far, so good. I don't have any spare SATA hard drives lying around to see if the whole setup actually works with a drive, but I'm supposed to receive a shipment of 5 new 2TB drives today. Fingers crossed.

Author:  mgannon [ Thu Dec 16, 2010 10:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Adding Storage to Big Server

Well, my 5 new WD 2.0TB EARS hard drives showed up today. I jumpered pins 7-8, slipped one of the drives into the new SATA cage, and the drive popped right up on the Server Storage screen on the WHS console. That's where the progress stopped. I can't get WHS to add any drives to the storage pool. I keep getting one of two different error messages, alternating between "Hard Drive Initialization Failed - The wizard was unable to create a volume on the had drive" and "The hard drive was not formatted - The hard drive was not formatted because it is being used by another program or service. Restart your home server and add the hard drive again." Needless to say, I've restarted a bunch of times, pulled the disk out and put it back, tried different disks (of the same type), and I keep getting the same result. I'm out of ideas, and exhausted, so heading to bed. Hopefully, I'll wake up to a solution tomorrow! :mss:

Author:  Comp1962 [ Fri Dec 17, 2010 1:37 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Adding Storage to Big Server

Sorry to hear about your difficulties. What I would do is connect the drives to another computer and try formatting them there. What this will rule out is if there is an issue with the drives themself. There is a remote chance the drives may be the issue. If the drives appear to work well in another computer then the place to look is with the hardware.

I have has the WD EARS Drives in my server and they operated without issue. I elected to remove them to see how they would perform unjumpered in a Win 7 64 bit client but thats not helping you out here.

Now if you happen to have a drive you can pull from a client where you can move the data off of and try installing that drive in the server to see what happens that would also give you an indication if the hardware is involved or not.

So right now you have to determine if the issue is with the drives or with the hardware in the server upto and including cards, cables, power connections and so forth. Sometimes its the backplanes. But you have to rule things and then you will be able to make forward progress.

Also check to make sure the drivers for the new cards you just installed are the right drivers for your server. If you have Server 2003 drivers try those if you did not load them. For this you will have to logon to the server from the server itself or RDP but I believe your server is not headless so its alot easier to work with. The other drivers that will often work would be for Win XP or 2k and they have to be 32 bit not 64 bit drivers because WHS-OEM v1 is a 32 Bit OS. I only mention this because one time I wrote a guide and did not specify 32 bit drivers and someone attempted to load in 64 bit drivers.

Good Luck and keep us posted on your progress.

Author:  mksE55 [ Fri Dec 17, 2010 7:14 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Adding Storage to Big Server

Been there done that. New WD EARS drives are not formatted or partitioned for WHS , when you jumper them. SO, 2 options. easy options as seems to work, is install the Drives with jumpers. RDP into your server and do an initial harddrive install and format. then when you go back into the WHS window you will see them. go under control panel, admin tools. computer management , then disk management and select the disk you wish to work on. do this one at a time so you dont get confused, then click add simple partition, and just follow like a normal drive. there is link here somewhere I will see If I can find it . then when you finish. ( only select quick format or you will be waiting hours) then it want matter in WHS if you format again or not. OR option two is hooking it to another computer as comp1962 mentions then reattach should show up them , but same procedure at each computer. let us know.

Author:  mgannon [ Fri Dec 17, 2010 7:51 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Adding Storage to Big Server

Thank you both for your replies and advice. Can always count on the members here. Unfortunately, I don't have any spare sata drives lying around that I can use to troubleshoot what's going on here. For whatever it's worth, it does not appear to be the drives themselves. At the very least, they are not DOA, becasue at one point I actually installed all 5 new drives in one of the Supermicro cages and they all showed up in the WHS console, I had SMART data on each of them etc. I'm also able to see at least one drive in Disk Manager when I RDP into the server (or when directly logged into the server - mine is not headless) - note that I only tried this when I had a single drive installed, but I assume if I can see the drives in the console and get SMART data from them that the controller card and the backplanes must be operating correctly and that the drivers are working. Bad assupmption?

At one point during the evening I did take the drive out of the cage, installed it on another PC via a USB adapter, and performed a quick format. The only thing that threw me there is when the format routine asked me to select an allocation unit size. The routine defaulted at 4k, but had a host of other options. I went with 4K - problem?

I did not attempt to format any of the drives directly in Disk Manager on Northstar. I'm at work now, so I won't be able to give that a go until this afternoon.

Any other thoughts given some of the steps I've taken and results I've seen? I'm especially curious if anyone thinks I still might have a hardware issue even though the SATA cards seem to post up just right, appear to be operating normally in Device Manager, allow me to see the disks in the WHS console, etc.

Author:  mksE55 [ Fri Dec 17, 2010 7:53 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Adding Storage to Big Server

keep us posted.

Author:  mgannon [ Fri Dec 17, 2010 2:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Adding Storage to Big Server

Still no love. I used Disk Management to add a partition, that worked fine. Went to the console, the drive was there. Clicked "Add," the machine worked for quite a while, a couple different green progress bars (formatting drive, adding drive, etc.), and then, failure.
failed.JPG [ 18.77 KiB | Viewed 8950 times ]

Here is what the drive looks like in Disk Management (the disk on the top of the text area and the bottom of the graphic area) and in the console (the disk on the top).
Disk Mgmt.JPG
Disk Mgmt.JPG [ 90.8 KiB | Viewed 8950 times ]

Console.JPG [ 97.41 KiB | Viewed 8950 times ]

Author:  mgannon [ Fri Dec 17, 2010 2:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Adding Storage to Big Server

OK, WTF? On a frustrated whim, I decided to (again) try the same disk in the second SATA cage, which is on the second SATA card. Stuck it in, hit add, and it just loaded right up. Astonished, I rolled the dice and stuck another drive in the same cage. Presto. I swear, I did this last night. Now it works, for no apparent reason. I hate that. Hardware problem with the first SATA cage and/or card? Who the f$#^ knows?

Three drives to go. Let's see what happens...

Author:  mgannon [ Fri Dec 17, 2010 2:37 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Adding Storage to Big Server

Yep, you guessed it, I went 5 for 5 adding all of the new drives to the second SATA cage, not a single hiccup. I didn't format any of them after the first one that I screwed around with all yesterday evening and when I first got home again today. They all just went right in, just like they are supposed to.

Oh well, it's Friday. I can sort out the hardware problem on another day. Serious bonus points to anyone who can suggest a hardware fault that would cause WHS to fail in adding the drive to the pool, but the rest of the system can apparently work with the drive/sata cage/sata controller with no problems. Keep in mind as well that the second sata cage/controller combination is exactly the same as the first, and in exactly the same type of slot.

Thanks, as always, to this community for coming to the rescue with thoughts and advice, even if none of it ultimately mattered!!!

Author:  Chasrobin [ Fri Dec 17, 2010 4:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Adding Storage to Big Server

I don't know if you have done this yet, but there a hotfix for server 2003 to handle "Advanced Format Drive"
it takes care of an alignment issue.
This is likely a DE issue with the 512e specification. (Jumper7,8)
But there is a Microsoft KB on this for 2003.
But DE is a different bird, so I don't know if it will help.

Vista, Win7, 2008, vail, Aurora will not have this problem.

Author:  mgannon [ Mon Dec 20, 2010 12:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Adding Storage to Big Server

Looks like the problem was a faulty backplane in one of the Supermicro cages. After getting the disks online in the other cage (which is hooked up to the second SAT2-MV8) I slid a spare non-EARS drive into the bad cage - I got activity lights on the cage, but nothing on the console. I then took the sata cable of the back of the cage and went straight to the drive, the disk showed right up and I had no problem adding it to the storage pool.

The moral of the story, as I should have figured from reading all the other big server threads, is that problems like this are very likely to be related a backplane problem - must be the most sensitive and flaky PC components ever built.

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