Mac Pro RAID card under Windows

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by ScottishCaptain, Jan 25, 2017.

  1. ScottishCaptain, Jan 25, 2017
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2017

    ScottishCaptain macrumors 6502a

    Oct 4, 2008
    Has anyone ever managed to get the Mac Pro RAID card working under Windows?

    I am looking to switch to Windows 7 on my Mac Pro (not wishing to use the latest versions of OS X), and I'd love to do so while still maintaining the ability to use my Mac Pro RAID card for full speed access to my storage drives.

    I've spent some time digging around in the Mac Pro RAID card firmware and found some interesting things. The card is actually a very standard reference design, powered by an ALC3300 chip designed by Aristos Logic. It is a PowerPC based chipset (AMCC PowerPC 4xx, big endian) with some additional SAS silicon bolted on the side for controlling the disk drives.

    It boots a Linux 2.6.15.x kernel via U-Boot (the image format for the kernel is "uimage"). The root filesystem is JFFS2, and contains a fairly complete environment stocked with command line configuration tools for setting up the RAID card, SSH and telnet servers, and an Apache server which is apparently used to remotely configure the card using SOAP.

    It appears as though the majority of the card configuration occurs over some sort of TCP/IP tunnel to the card over PCI-e. RAID volumes are exported as emulated SCSI volumes to the host computer. The communication for both appears to occur through a "shim" daemon running on the card ("pshim"), which allows the host OS to communicate with the RAID management daemon ("tsal").

    TSAL has quite a few configuration files associated with it, some of which control how the RAID card operates internally, others control how the card interfaces with the host. For the most part, these all appear to be relatively untouched by Apple. The most Apple specific part of the entire setup are the EFI drivers included elsewhere in the firmware bundle; these are almost entirely written by Apple using some sort of Intel EFI toolkit ("IntelMPG") with the project codename "Loki".

    I don't think that the EFI drivers are really that proprietary, though there's a good chance that it would still be impossible to boot Windows from the Mac Pro RAID card. A lot of the stuff in there appears to be fairly generic and more or less only concerned with booting whatever OS resides on the RAID volumes, rather than setting up anything OS X specific.


    What I'm wondering is this:

    Is anyone aware of any other cards that used a similar chipset from Aristos? The only mention I can find of this chipset being used *anywhere* else is the IBM Bladecenter S RAID module, but I believe the hardware in that configuration is abstracted too far away from the OS so there are no direct drivers for accessing the RAID card (and/or booting off of it, since the chassis appears to emulate an LSI 1064E controller, which is what the blades interact with).

    Adaptec seems to have had their own version of the Aristos chipset at one point in time called the AL3400/AL3450 UltraSlice RAID controller. However, it appears like they never produced a host bus adapter with this chip, just SAN based stuff, so there were never any drivers for Windows made available.

    Someone, somewhere, had to have used the same chip (or a very similar chip) for a RAID controller, right? So there's gotta be Windows drivers out there that can talk to this card, no?

    Maybe I'm wrong, but I'd like to think it's just a matter of finding the right drivers, and hacking in the Apple PID/VID for the card... (apart from the EFI drivers, that appears to be the only Apple specific customization).

  2. Draeconis macrumors 6502a

    May 6, 2008
    I used to run Windows from a disk mounted in the ODD bay, while having the 4 disks below managed by an Apple RAID card. Windows could never see the card or the disks associated with it, as I believe the card supersedes the on-board SATA controller when in use, but only for Bays 1-4. Presumably this is because Apple never bothered with drivers for the RAID card for BootCamp, because they assumed you wouldn't be booting an OS from the ODD bay, so all the normal bays would be controlled by the RAID card, so Windows wouldn't work (you can't install Windows to a disk in Bays 1-4 whilst the Apple RAID card is inserted, in my experience).

    Much later, I migrated my setup purely over to Windows 10, and have these 4 bays in a Storage Spaces Striped Mirror configuration using ReFS. I'd really recommend it over continuing with a physical RAID controller.

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