10-04-2019 11:01 AM
Hello everyone. Before purchasing a used ThinkStation P500 or P700 to use as a lab machine, I have a few questions I'm hoping someone out there can help me with.
1) If I install a six port, PCIe SATA controller, will the machine's onboard RSTe controller then be able to control the additional hard drives?
2) Will said PCIe SATA controller require a cable to be connected to the machine's motherboard in order to access the hard drive activity light?
3) If installed in the PCIe 2.0 x1 slot on a P500, would the additional SATA controller saturate the link when six mechanical hard drives are connected to it?
4) If installed in the PCIe 2.0 x4 slot on a P500, would the additional SATA controller saturate the link when six solid state hard drives are connected to it?
5) Is the eSATA port on the P500/P700 also controlled by the onboard RSTe controller?
6) Is the 1.1 revision of the M.2 flex card only for the P500/P700, rather than the 2.2 revision, which appears to be for the P510/P710?
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10-04-2019 11:46 AM
Answers to your questions below....
1. If you're installing a 3rd party discrete controller via PCIe slot, then that controller would essentially operate independently of the onboard RSTe controller that currently drives the red onboard SATA ports (which would be under the sSATA controller in BIOS for this platform). There's no way to make a 3rd party controller drive the onboard red SATA ports.
2. Yes, though there's no guarantee this will be workable. For 3rd party discrete cards that we support on the platform (mainly from LSI/Avago/Broadcom), we offer a 2-pin cable that connects to the storage controller and the motherboard to essentially "combine" the HDD functionality such that drives connected to both the onboard ports and the LSI/Avago/Broadcom ports will drive the HDD LED. With e a random 3rd party controller, we can't guarantee that fucntionality simply becuase we won't know for sure how they are driving the LED.
3. Possibly. Do you know the PCIe specs of the card you're attempting to use? Most 3rd party storage controllers (with that many ports) that I've seen are typically using a x8 connection. So driving that with a x1 port will dramatically reduce the overall bandwith (PCIe version won't really help there).
4. Possibly, but not as bad as as described in #3 above.
5. The eSATA port on P500/700 is routed to the standard SATA controller (not the sSATA controller). Both are technically RSTe though.
6. The updated version of the M.2 FLEX adapter should be fully backward compatible to the P500/700 platforms. The newer versions added support for the heatsink + thermal solutions. I suggest going with the latest one if you can find it to ensure you have the full thermal solution. Also note that using the FLEX adapter in P500 will require an additional plastic guide piece in order to engage properly with the front fan assembly for proper retention. The front fan assembly would also be required as well.
Hope that helps. Let us know if you have any follow up questions.
10-04-2019 02:45 PM
Thank you for such a detailed reply, psuturtle! Below is a link to the controller I'm interested in using, which I should have included in my original post.
From what I can tell, it's pretty much a "dumb" controller, hence questions one through four about RSTe controlling hard drives attached to it.
As a follow-up to question five, since the eSATA port is "technically" controlled by RSTe, though not on the same controller, is it possible to create software RAID volumes in a "dumb" external enclosure attached to it?
Finally, in regard to question six, yes, I'm aware of the differences between using a flex adapter in a P500 and a P700. Though, I appreciate you mentioning it.
Thanks again for your time!
10-07-2019 08:19 AM
I wouldn't call that card a "dumb controller" necessarily, but it is a bit of an oddball though. It's based on two different controllers being implemented on the same adapter...one being the Marvell 88SE9215 and the other being the ASM1093. The two controllers are required to support the 6 avaiilable ports because the Marvell controller on its own can handle at most 4 SATA outputs. So the ASM1093 supports the other two SATA ports. Neither support RAID from what I can tell. At any rate, any drives connected to this card would not have anything to do with RSTe.
As far as I know, there is no way to create a RAID array using the eSATA port and ports from an external controller/enclosure.
I think the real question is what exactly are you trying to do with your storage configuration? P500 and P700 have supported methods for supporting a lot of drives. Up to 8 x SATA drives can be supported when using one of the qualified LSI adapters, and that includes full support for bootable (HW) RAID. If you let us know what your end goal is, we can probably recommend the best solution for you.
10-07-2019 02:18 PM
Hello again, psuturtle. The primary goal would be to add eight SATA drives; four, 3.5" mechanical drives for storage, and four, 2.5" solid state drives for speed. If I remember correctly, each drive tray in a P500/P700 supports one of each. I would then create two RAID-6 arrays; one for storage using mechanical drives, and one for speed using solid state drives. I'd also like to add a single M.2 SATA PCIe SSD via the flex adapter for the operating system.
The secondary goal would be to keep costs down by using software RAID via the onboard RSTe controller rather than a hardware based RAID card. For whatever reason, I thought it was possible to add SATA drives to an RSTe controller via a PCIe adapter. Apparently, that's not the case, right?
10-08-2019 09:39 AM
Adding the combination of 8 drives as you describe (4 x 3.5" spinning drives + 4 x 2.5' SATA SSDs) is certainly possible, but it might be somewhat difficult as an upgrade if your system wasn't built to support this scenario up front. 8 SATA ports is beyond the limits of what can be supported using the traditional onboard RSTe SATA ports (limited to 4). For this scenario, we'd typically move to one the LSI (/Avago/Broadcom) based controllers such as the 9364-8i or the LSI SAS/SATA RAID FLEX adapter. With the use of either of those controllers, we'd also normally switch the storage method over to use our Blind Connect Assemblies (BCA-S) as it wouldn't be possible to manually cable all 8 drives in the system. If your system isn't already configured with these parts, adding the dual BCA-S in via an upgrade can be a rather complicated process in terms of getting the cable routing right as many of the cables route under the motherboard. Certainly not impossible, but difficult if you're not comfortable working inside a PC. I'll have to double check on the support levels to see if either of these controllers support RAID 6. I think the chipsets might be able to support it, but not sure if we actually enabled it.
RAID 6 and cost savings aren't something that go hand in hand typically. It's a HW based RAID solution typically, so you won't be able to use Intel RAID or software RAID to support it. You'll likely have to go with a discrete storage controller to be able to support dual RAID 6 arrays. And you're correct in that you can't add SATA drives to the RSTe controller via an adapter.
So lots to think over there. If you're still onboard for trying to get dual RAID 6 arrays and want to go down that path, I can double check the RAID support for our qualified LSI cards and provide you with a list of parts that you'd need to get to make it happen.
10-09-2019 12:28 PM
Good afternoon, psuturtle. Thanks again for such a well thought out response.
I think I may wind up doing one of two things.
Set the four RSTe controlled SATA ports on the motherboard to AHCI, connect four SSDs to them and let Windows do the RAID-ing. The two remaining SATA ports could then be used for the OS itself, again, RAID-ed by Windows. Finally, a simple, four port PCIe SATA controller could be installed to add the four HDDs to mix, once again, RAID-ed by Windows.
Install a used, hardware based RAID card which has been flashed to IT mode (for true JBOD), connect the four SSDs and four HDDs to it and let Windows create both arrays. The OS array could then be created using RSTe or by Windows itself.
While neither of the above solutions will be as tidy or as robust as having a BCA-S based, hardware RAID6 setup, they also won't be as expensive and difficult.
Thanks again for your time, psuturtle! I really appreciate it.
10-09-2019 02:10 PM
Both of those are valid options, but each will come with some difficulty in getting the cabling to work. The chassis was never designed to support manual cabling for 8 drives in that area, so you'll need to make sure you've fully vetted the solution such that you don't have issues with cables getting pinched/cut/etc. Also, you might have to chase down a 2nd power drop cable for the HDDs as your current system likely only has a single 4-drop SATA power cable. You'd need another one to handle the additional 4 drives, and you could connect it to the onboard port for power. Be careful with P500 in that there is not much room between the drive data/power hookups and the chassis cover. You'll likely need right angle SATA connectors, and you'll need to make sure you're getting the right cable length and angle (90 degrees vs 270 degrees).
You can still use Intel RSTe to RAID the 4 onboard ports if you wanted to. Might be marginally better than having Windows do it. I don't think you'll be able to use Windows RAID to support a bootable array. But there might be some software hack/trick there that I'm not familiar with. I'd have to double check, but I think the chipset for those platforms also still have Intel RAID enabled for the standard AHCI SATA ports. I don't think we ever technically supported RAID on that controller for systems shipped from the factory, but I also don't think we disabled the function. Check it out in the OPROM/BIOS as it might be another viable option for you (and it should support boot as well).
10-09-2019 03:01 PM
Yeah, cabling may be a bit of an issue. I'd definitely have to take several measurements first.
I was also unsure whether or not Windows RAID supported boot volumes. However, after researching the topic online, I found a Microsoft article titled, "Configuring Disk Mirroring for Windows Server 2012." From what I've read, it should also work in Windows Server 2016 and 2019, though I haven't actually tried it yet.
So, is "Intel RAID" different than RSTe? Does it have anything to do with whatever the difference is between the SATA and sSATA controllers?
10-10-2019 07:20 AM
I'm probably using terms interchangeably there. Intel RAID is just a generic term for Intel's onboard RAID support. RSTe is supported on the sSATA side of the controller. But the RSTe driver package will typically contain drivers for both sSATA and AHCI.
My point earlier is that each side (sSATA and AHCI) support RAID individually. But they do not support RAIDing across controllers. So you could have a RAID array on the sSATA ports, and a different RAID array on the AHCI ports, but you could not have a RAID array that spanned across both sSATA and AHCI ports. So technically, if you wanted a 2 drive RAID array (0/1) to handle the OS, you could put that on the AHCI ports. That would then leave the sSATA ports to run a 2nd (data) array (0/1/10). That's only 6 total drives though, so if you truly wanted to get to 8 drives, then you'd need to go to a discrete 4 port controller and use that in combination with the onboard sSATA ports.
Hopefully that's clear. Storage on these can get pretty complicated .