Another Raid Queston

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by mpropst, Dec 19, 2009.

  1. mpropst macrumors newbie

    Dec 19, 2009
    Hi, long time reader first time poster. I recently purchased an Areca 1680ix to use in my 2007 Octo Mac Pro. I have been trying for the better part of a week to get an array to initialize. I am using a Sans Digital 8 slot SAS enclosure with 5 1T WD RE3's. I made sure the drives are on the approved list before I purchased them.

    Every time I try to initialize an array, I get time out errors on various drives. I have tried swapping cables to different locations, only using one channel and four drives, different channels, moving the drives to different locations in the enclosure and I still have drives being reported as failed. This AM I moved the card from my Mac to a PC to try creating and initializing the array from the cards BIOS, and I got the same result. I have tried two different sets of drives also. I also tried to flash the cards BIOS on the PC, it reported that is successfully flashed the BIOS, but it is still reporting ver. 1.47.

    I am assuming at this point that the 1680ix is faulty, but not being a Raid expert I wanted to get some others opinions before I go through a painful RMA process.

    Thanks for the help.
  2. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    That's a good card, and a good drive for those cards as well (I use a pair of Areca cards, and one has RE3's on it). :D

    1. I have to ask, did you flash the firmware to EFI?

    2. What exactly are you using for cabling between the card and enclosure?
    Make sure to provide the following:
    • adapters used (if any)
    • lengths

    At this point, I'll assume you did flash the firmware, and the problem is likely with #2.

    SATA has a short cable length in it's specification:
    Passive signals = 1.0 m
    Active signals = 2.0m (these are max values, and you need to estimate every cable in the run, including what's inside the enclosure).

    Also note, that the adapters that can be used to convert an internal port to an external port will also cause instability (I've run into this; they're fine with SAS, as it's a 20V signal, but SATA is less than 1V = BIG difference, and SATA is very suceptible to things like contact resistance and noise as a result).

    If you've used adapters to get internal port/s out to the enclosure, then you'll have to pull them and use an internal to external cable (here).

    There's other things it could be as well, but let's start with this. ;)
  3. mpropst thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 19, 2009
    Thanks for the response.

    For adapters, I used a 4 port 8087 to 8088 adapter card from pc-pitstop. However, to rule out internal cable to adapter, and adapter problems, I have only been using the single external 8088 connector on the 1680ix while I have been trying to sort out these problems.

    I am using the 1-meter minisas cables that came with the SansDigital enclosure.

    Flashing is another story. I have tried to flash the card through both the http interface on the Mac, and from the DOS utility. I tried the latest beta BIOS from Areca's web site, as well as the Mac EFIbios. Every time I try the flash, it says it completes the flash successfully, but when I check the bios, it is still saying version 1.47.
  4. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    :cool: NP. :)

    RAID tends to get tricky, even if you know what you're doing. :eek: :p

    This would definitely be part of the problem at least. They're unreliable with SATA (causes drop-outs, and often, if it will even initialize the array).

    Return it and the SFF-8087 to SFF-8087 cables if you ordered those as well. Get an internal to external MiniSAS (SFF-8087 to SFF-8088 @ 1.0m) instead per connector you need. Here (and it's pc-pitstop as well - one of the best places to find such things).

    OK. Good idea.

    But you may have bad cables. There's a few other things to check as well.
    1. The drive firmware (you have to make sure the revision isn't earlier than that listed, as the initial firmware didn't work, and why those drives were delayed in making the HDD List). WD had to make a newer revision.

    2. The firmware Flash may not have stuck, or been done properly (I'll address this one further down)

    3. I'm assuming the enclosure is a dumb box (no internal RAID controller of it's own), and it uses trays (this one?). It's possible the drives aren't making solid contact to the backplane connectors in the trays. Pull the tray out, loosen the screws (don't remove them), hold it by the tray's front, and let gravity pull the drive as far back as it will go (there's some "slop" in the screw holes sometimes). Then tighten the screws. It's not much distance to be gained, but it will surprise you that that little bit can help establish a solid conection between the drive and the connector in the enclosure.

    If it does in fact have a RAID controller, you'll need a different enclosure unit. Also if you ordered all the drives from the same place and they came from a bad batch, the entire set will be affected. Just a note here, as it's possible, but the other areas are more likely, and need to be checked out thoroughly first.

    It will always display the revision number, which is currently 1.47. Keep in mind, there's multiple sections. You may need to flash all of them, and do the EFI last, to make sure the BIOS section is over-written. If you don't, it won't be capable of booting OS X until you do. You'll have to get this one sorted, and I'd recommend starting here.

    And stay away from the Beta versions of firmware. That's a last resort. What I can tell you, is the Beta drivers for Win7 do work, and so far, I've not had any issues out of it.

    Hope this helps, good luck, and let me know how it goes. :)
  5. mpropst thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 19, 2009
    I had thought about both of my external cables being bad, but had no way to rule that out. :mad:

    You linked to the correct enclosure. SansDigital listed it as being compatible with Areca cards.

    I never thought to check the firmware on the HDD's, thanks for the pointer.

    Do I need to flash the EFI bios if I don't plan on booting from the controller? I have never been a fan of booting from RAID.
  6. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    Do you have a DMM (digital multimeter)?

    You could attempt a continuity test, and go from there. The easiest thing of course, is to have a spare cable that's good for testing. It does happen, especially if you step on the cable a few times (small wires and can break). :(

    I just wanted to make sure, as I've seen RAID capable enclosures (meant to be run with an eSATA card) attempted with RAID cards. It's usually a mess at best (typically won't work at all).

    This is a big one. When you check the HDD Compatibility List, you have to pay attention to both the drive and the firmware revision. It's common enough that a drive may need the firmware re-worked to be compatible with SAS cards, and even with SATA cards (SAS is more common though IMO, as they're picky).

    If you plan to stay in the OS X environment, I'd go ahead and do EFI. The system will still boot off of a system drive (logic board) if that's where you've installed OS X.

    If you want it to boot into Windows, leave the BIOS version on it. It should still be accessible via drivers in OS X, but you'd want to create separate arrays if you do this.

    Please note, that none of them can dual boot OS X and Windows in a MP, due to the EFI firmware used. It's not 100% EFI v. 1.10 specification compliant. They'd need to be able to contain both EFI and BIOS, which isn't possible with any current card (doubt it ever will either).
  7. mpropst thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 19, 2009
    I followed all of your suggestions, my drive firmware is the latest, and I flashed the card with the latest series of GA releases.

    I think I identified the problem(s). Firstly, your advice about the 8087->8088 adapter was spot on. When I used it I experienced a lot of dropouts and general randomness to problems. However, I think my main problem is a defective SansDigital enclosure. I noticed that I consistently had one slot on each channel timing out, causing the array to degrade. I created an array skipping the suspected bad channels and used it all day today without any problems. I think it is RMA time for the enclosure.
  8. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    :cool: These are always things to be checked when putting a system together, and the firmware aspect with each addition/swap in drives.

    If you don't have to check the firmware, or attempt to use a drive not on the list, but it's more of a gamble. RMA's become more likely in such cases.

    It appears you have found the cause. Those adapters are a royal PITA with SATA drives. Not so much of an issue with SAS, as it runs on a much higher voltage.

    BTW, whats's the length on the external cables?
    Even with a new enclosure, it's possible they're part of the problem.

    Good luck with the RMA, and sorry about the headache (RMA process), as I assume you were keyed up about getting this system up and operational (at least for testing, which you really want to do prior to trusting data to it).
  9. mpropst thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 19, 2009
    They were 1M cables, but they are going back with the old enclosure. I have already placed an order for the cables your recommended.
  10. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    :cool: I was just wondering, as that could have meant the enclosure was good, but the supplied cables too long for SATA drives (I've seen longer ones ship with enclosures in the 1.5 - 1.75m range, and it's pushing the distance spec, as I see such enclosures as passive, not active). An example of an active enclosure would be a PM unit, as the PM board is powered. The MS boxes there's no circuit between the drives and card. Just cables.
  11. mpropst thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 19, 2009
    I know what you mean. I have two of the 1M cables, and since I was only using one channel, I swapped the cables around multiple times, and on both channels of the enclosure. I consistently got the same slots to fail, the key thing was, they were different slot locations for each channel, channel 1 was slot 2, channel 2 was slot 1, which I think would rule out the cables.

    All I know is it was a lot easier in my Sparcstation and LVD SCSI days. :)
  12. gugucom macrumors 68020


    May 21, 2009
    Munich, Germany
    Sometimes I wonder why people do not use the internal capacity of a Mac Pro. In any case you can fit 14-16 GB of storage into a MP by using the 2nd ODD bay and a DX4 expansion.
  13. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    I was only curious, as to be sure it was the enclosure, not the cables. The smallest detail can change everything... :rolleyes: ;)

    Oviously the cables are good, but useless, as they're the wrong ones. BTW, I've seen more issues on Macs than other systems (cabling + firmware), particularly as internal based arrays are much easier to do with other makes.
  14. mpropst thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 19, 2009
    Just to follow-up. I got a new SAS enclosure and the cables that nanofrog recommended and it solved all of my issues. I even tested the new enclosure with my old cables and it works fine, so it looks like in the end I had a bad SansDigital enclosure.
  15. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    :cool: Glad you got it all sorted. :D

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