17 Mar 2007

It doesn”t *what*??

Author: q | Filed under: Frustrations

So I got back into the office following the MVP summit and need to do some work on one of my test boxes, and I”m running into a little trouble with a piece of software complaining about the CPU not being 64-bit (this is on a server acquired a month ago specifically for 64-bit software testing) and it suggested that I check some settings in the BIOS. OK, no problem. Reboot the server, and just happen to look at the RAID controller firmware during the BIOS boot and thought it was taking a little longer than normal to go past. Sure enough, when the firmware finishes initializing, it reports that the main VD is degraded. Yikes! I popped into the controller BIOS and it says the drive is missing. *sigh* I hear a call to Dell coming in the near future.

Before calling, I pop the case to see that everything looks OK (this is done with power OFF, by the way, and with a good grounding strap), and I noticed that the cable connecting drive 0 to the controller has come off the connector. Not just worked a little lose, mind you, but completely and totally off. No wonder the array was degraded and the controller reported a drive missing. I reconnected the cable (which doesn”t fit exactly the way I want,and I”ll mention that in my call to Dell,because I can kinda see why the connector popped off in the first place), power on the server, and get back into the controller BIOS. Drive shows, but it”s showing Foreign (again, not a huge surprise), so I make one of the other unallocated drives in the unit (long story, don”t ask) a global hotspare, and the array starts rebuilding immediately.

When I got the Dell support rep on the phone, which didn”t take very long, his initial thought was that the drive was bad and he was ready to courier it to me to meet the 4-hour on-site warranty that I got with the box, but after I explained the situation, we went through and got the drive back to a working state, and it seems to be in good shape, save for the concerns I have about the cable pressure. But I asked him about my real concern, which was that the controller alarm didn”t sound when the array failed. He reviewed the docs on the controller, and dropped this little tidbit of info on me:


Excuse me? The PCI controller (which has exactly the same firmware, apparently) supports an audible alarm for when there”s a hardware problem on the controller, but the on-board one does not? Could someone try to explain this to me in a way that makes ANY sense at all whatsoever?

My Dell reps are going to get a bit of an earful come Monday. Besides the lack of alarm support on the controller and the cable pressure, it”s clear that the firmware for the on-board controller doesn”t support a number of functions that the PCI version does, including, but not limited to, flashing the LED on the drives.

I know Dell has their ups and downs, and I”ve defended them most of the time that people insist on deriding the hardware or support lines, but this is just plain lunacy. And it wasn”t anything that was obvious – the support rep had to dig through a number of docs to finally determine that the on-board controller has no alarm support.

So, note to self. Either Dell gets this fixed, or I stick with PCI RAID controllers from now on. That”s like buying a car where none of the dashboard alert lights are present and you”re supposed to guess when you have an oil pressure problem, or are close to running out of gas, etc., etc., etc.

Good grief… 

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