Does the Xserve RAID require Apple firmware hard drives?

Discussion in 'Mac OS X Server, Xserve, and Networking' started by uberamd, Jul 2, 2009.

  1. macrumors 68030


    So I got my new toy today (pictured below).


    I am pumped, needless to say. My question involves the hard drives. I have 5 drive caddies, and I am not buying any more since they are INSANELY expensive. I have 4 in use and 1 free one. I decided to take the free one and pop in a 40GB generic hard drive (seagate), with NO apple firmware. Guess what, the light turned green and RAID Admin sees it as a spare, 40GB drive (see attached). So I tossed in a 500GB IDE drive, generic Western Digital Blue (again no Apple firmware) and the RAID Admin utility saw it as a 500GB Spare HD. Obviously I can't turn this into a RAID array because a RAID already exists with the other 4 drives, but does this mean Apple firmware is NOT required on the drive?

    I am confused by this. For what its worth this is the 2002 model of the Xserve RAID, model A1009. I would GLADLY upgrade all of the drives to 500GB drives if I knew Apple firmware drives wasn't required, but I cannot tell if this is the case or not. Can anyone confirm? I am having an impossible time finding Apple IDE drives anywhere.

    Attached Files:

  2. macrumors newbie

    You suck, I want one!

    Apple doesnt do custom firmware on harddrives, you should be able to replace away.

    One question I've always wondered. So then, when you order one of them beasts.. well, when you still could... they dont come full of the drive trays? or did this come second hand and maybe someone kept the rest?
  3. macrumors 6502

    Generally the way it works is when you buy the Xserve, and have it configured with lets say 2 drives out of 3, it will only come with 2 drive modules, leaving 1 extra drive bay without the module. And like the OP stated, they are VERY expensive. For our Xserve the run about $400 each.

    Also OP, you can cram any Non-Apple HDD in it without any problems. Depending on the server, your limited to 500, 650 or 1TB drives. Based on the age of the Mac, and the fact you have an IDE interface, 500GB is the biggest. But that's still not bad!
  4. macrumors P6

    Tallest Skil

    I don't get it. Don't you already have all of the drive caddies? That picture looks like you do.

    Or is the XServe RAID not at all like the Mac Pro (in that it has trays)?
  5. macrumors 6502

    There are 2 styles of drive caddies, one that just fills the empty bays, to make it look uniform, and the drive caddies that have the ability to use a HDD in them. Here is a picture of my Xserve Drive Caddie without the drive in it. His should look close to this one.

    Attached Files:

  6. macrumors 6502a

    It's actually quite a standard thing with lots of storage manufacturers, they tend to ship two "caddies". The first kind are "real" caddies, ones that can actually hold a disk. You normally only get these for the disks you actually ordered with the device.

    The second kind are effectively blanking plates. They fill the slot but aren't capable of taking a drive.

    Depending on who you ask, it's a way of keeping purchase price down for people who don't need all the bays filling (as the blanks are cheaper) or a cynical move by manufacturers to ensure that you end up going back to them for the disks because you need to buy the caddies as well, and you end up paying well over the odds for the drives.
  7. macrumors 68030


    Good to know. The drives currently in it all have the Apple logo on them. I was doing some reading and a few people were saying that you need the Apple firmware since it talks to the RAID and informs it of its status. Clearly they were just full of it.
    Sounds good, I think I will go with 5x500GB drives. That would give me just under 2TB of storage on RAID 5. Initializing that array will take about 3 days I am guessing.
    If you are ever getting rid of any trays, let me know. $$$.

    Yeah, it has been said above but the Xserve RAID comes with however many physical drives you configure it with then the remainder of the bays are filled with empty filler plates. Its bogus because the Xserve RAID IDE caddies are incredibly expensive and even harder to find. The fact that I have 5, in a working system makes me feel like I am sitting on a small fortune to the tune of about $2,250.

    I think its bogus that servers often come with the empty, non-functional filler plates. What good is a 14-bay server if it only has 5 usable trays? This just frustrates me to no end as it makes it nearly impossible to add more drives to any server after the manufacturing end-date has passed.

    On a similar note, I was also given a Relion 240 server with dual 2.8GHz Xeon processors and 6 Seagate Cheetah SCSI 10,000 RPM hard drives in it. The thing screams because of the drives, but if any drives fail I am going to be too cheap to replace them. SCSI drives are insanely expensive, $1-2 per GB depending on size. Ugh.
  8. macrumors P6

    Tallest Skil

    Well, that's a frigging crock. LOOK at that thing! I'm glad that Apple got out of the rackmount RAID business.
  9. macrumors 68030


    As far as looks go, I personally think the Xserve RAID has a pretty sweet appearance. The fiber activity lights on the front are dazing when they start to dance from activity. The dual RAID cards with fiber modules allow for a lot of flexibility across the 14 bays, the fact that you can install 2 batteries or hook directly up to a UPS via serial is nice also. Overall I think it makes a great enterprise backup system.

    And like any Apple computer, its heavy. This thing weighs 100 pounds (45 kilograms for those not in the US). And the replacement parts are incredibly expensive, just like any other discontinued Apple product. I love it.
  10. macrumors 601

    Just a note, the blanks aren't there to make it look uniform. They are put there to ensure air is being pulled across the drives. If 5 of the blanks were not inserted, more air would be pulled from that space rather than across the drives.

    Why they don't ship them with drive caddies instead, I'll never know.
  11. macrumors 68030


    Because the extra hardware would increase manufacturing costs by about $1.75. Ugh. If that thing had 14 IDE drive caddies in it I would be so happy right now.
  12. macrumors 601

    Yeah, it really stinks. I haven't seen the Apple drive blanks, but is there any way to hack it?
  13. macrumors 68030


    I'm guessing not since it would be missing the LED status lights (not a huge deal). Also inside the caddy there is the IDE and power cable that goes into a proprietary board that connects when you slide the caddy in.
  14. macrumors 6502a

    As I said...
    a cynical move by manufacturers to ensure that you end up going back to them for the disks because you need to buy the caddies as well, and you end up paying well over the odds for the drives.

    Industry standard practice for a lot of storage systems I'm afraid. Of course this is just to "help you" by ensuring the drives you purchase are "compatible".
  15. macrumors 68030


    Thats so true. They charge well over double the cost of a drive from for example. We are pricing out some Dell server's at work and they were charging over $220 per 500GB SATA drive, where on you can get 2 1TB drives and still have some cash to spare for $220. Its bogus.
  16. macrumors P6

    Tallest Skil

    Oh, no, I love the look of the XServe itself; I was talking about those whacked-out drive carriers. They're useless and unnecessary.
  17. macrumors newbie

    Actually, Apple does/did custom firmware with their drives. An Apple Enterprise Engineer told me about it, and about their burn-in tests for "enterprise" drives. It's has some performance tweaks, and misc reporting tidbits, which RAID uses to report runtime, vendor, etc.

    He went on to explain that they purposefully select drives from different batches/dates/facilities to minimize the "bad batch" scenario. I found that quite interesting.

    Anyways, yes you can use your own drives, but RAID may not report all information, and performance/reliability is "on your own".
  18. macrumors 68040


    If I was using a new Xserve at work, I'd never use a homemade caddy.

    But the Xserve is discontinued now, and i can see myself getting my hands on one in a few years time. I'm sure it must be possible to rig up your own home-made caddy.

    If you post detailed pics of the caddy and the connectors, I'd be interested in taking a look. There might be alternative places to route / attach the IDE connectors. It might even be possible to use simple gender changers and IDE splitters to double the number of drives that you can connect.
  19. macrumors newbie

    More info regarding non-Apple Drives in XServe RAID

    As was previously answered, you can use ANY IDE/ATA drive in the XServe RAID. I have not had any problems with my XServe RAID being unable to report usage hours and other diagnostic info about non-Apple drives, they work fine. But there is ONE thing you need to watch out for. If you are replacing a dead drive in an existing array you need to be careful. The new non-Apple drive MUST have at LEAST as much storage capacity as the Apple drive you are replacing. I know - this sounds obvious at first, but it is NOT. For example, if you are replacing an Apple 500GB drive with a Western Digital 500GB, the ACTUAL formatted capacity of the WD drive MUST BE EQUAL TO OR MORE than the Apple drive. I have had instances where the new non-Apple drive formatted at a capacity that was only a few k less than the Apple drive and it would NOT work. Not all 500GB drives format at the exact same capacity. For example, my Apple 500GB had a formatted capacity of 465.76GB but the WD only had something like 465.72GB - this small difference was enough to cause the XServe RAID to reject the WD drive as a replacement in the existing RAID Array.

    Also - you can buy replacement Apple Drive Carriers for the XServe RAID for only $69 from - and for an additional charge you can add a used Apple branded drive at reasonable rates - $30 for 250GB, $40 for 400GB and $50 for 500GB. I have used Gainsavers on many occasions and found their XServe RAID deals to be the best on the web.

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