Finishing New Server Build : Time for SAS HBA IT mode card

zecas

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Dec 6, 2019
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Hi,

I'm in the process of finishing a new server build for proxmox virtualization.

The system is running memtest to check if I'm safe with those memory sticks, and so far so good, finishing 7th pass with 0 errors so far.


At the moment, my new server build goes like this:

- motherboard: X9DRH-7TF
Supermicro | Products | Motherboards | Xeon® Boards | X9DRH-7TF

- chassis: SSG-6027R-E1R12T
Supermicro | Products | SuperServers | 2U | 6027R-E1R12T

- disk backplate: BPN-SAS2-826EL1

- memory: 128Gb (8x 16Gb Samsung M393B2G70BH0-CK0Q9 DDR3 1600 MHz PC3-12800R ECC RDIMM)


For storage I'm attempting to fit SSD disks into my budget, and for the SAS connectors, even though the motherboard have a Broadcom 2208 chipset to drive the backplane, I would prefer an IT mode solution and (at least at this time) not mess with firmware upgrades on the motherboard chipset (I'll be using proxmox and ZFS mirroring).

I've came across multiple threads and a sticky one with a lot of info regarding existing cards, but for me at this time it's way too much info to deal with, hence this post.

Can anyone help me out understanding what would be best for my build and what to avoid?

Since I have a chassis with 12 front 3.5" caddies, I would like to have all of them available to the system (so I know I can slide in a disk on any one place). So I do believe that I only need 1x Mini SAS to Mini SAS (SFF-8087) cable connected to the backplane, correct?

That would leave me with choosing the HBA controller for the job. I've came up with some items I found on the web, and was thinking they could be the solution I'm searching for.

I'm sorry for posting a bunch of links, but I'm new to this SAS HBA IT mode selection, so I'm really hopping that someone can point me in the right direction, or simply telling me these items are crap and look elsewhere.

Hopefully I will get more knowledge from your feedback and your opinions and be more secure of the choice I'll be making.



Genuine LSI 6Gbps SAS HBA LSI 9200-8i = (9211-8I) IT Mode ZFS FreeNAS unRAID
Genuine LSI 6Gbps SAS HBA LSI 9200-8i = (9211-8I) IT Mode ZFS FreeNAS unRAID | eBay

This looks like an LSI 9200-8i flashed to IT mode (with an 9211-8i firmware).



LSI SAS SATA IT Mode 9201-8I 6Gbps 8 Ports RAID Controller Card = IT 9211-8I
LSI SAS SATA IT Mode 9201-8I 6Gbps 8 Ports RAID Controller Card = IT 9211-8I | eBay

This looks like an LSI 9201-8i (more recent than the above one?) flashed to IT mode (with an 9211-8i firmware).

As far as I can tell, the advantage of this one would be the position of the SAS connectors, as they would be more close to the backplane.



Adaptec ASR-71605 1GB Cache 16-Port 6Gbps, Low profile
Adaptec ASR-71605 1GB Cache 16-Port 6Gbps, Low profile 5054565146999 | eBay

In some other thread someone said that adaptec controllers have already IR/IT mode on their firmwares, so switching between modes would be just a matter of configuration rather than flashing firmware. Don't if those controllers are of any good, though ... but searched one online.



I found some others around, including one from Dell, but they all seem to go around the same chipsets, don't know if they are of much difference:

LSI 6Gbps SAS HBA LSI 9200-8i FW: P20 9211-8i IT Mode ZFS FreeNAS unRAID
LSI 6Gbps SAS HBA LSI 9200-8i FW:P20 9211-8i IT Mode ZFS FreeNAS unRAID | eBay

Dell H200 6Gbps SAS HBA = (LSI 9211-8i) P20 IT Mode ZFS FreeNAS unRAID
Dell H200 6Gbps SAS HBA = (LSI 9211-8i) P20 IT Mode ZFS FreeNAS unRAID | eBay



So in your opinion, which one would be a safer choice? Or none of the above?

And what should I also base my selection on? The chipset age? Cable positioning?



Thank you for your attention and help.
 

Dave Corder

Active Member
Dec 21, 2015
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You should be able to flash the LSI (Broadcom) 2208 firmware to IT mode and use it just fine without an add-on card.
 

Spartacus

Active Member
May 27, 2019
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+1 for flashing the chip on the board ^, but if you're truly set on going with a separate HBA any of the cards that are comparable the 9211-8i in it-mode for standard data drives, if you need to have multiple SSD or if you want to future proof yourself a little more pick up a 9207-8i in it-mode (it is the 2308 controller with dual processors).

How many SSD are you wanting to add? (if 2 or less you could hook them up to the two white internal SATA3 ports)

https://www.supermicro.com/manuals/other/BPN-SAS2-826EL_1.0.pdf
Chapter 3 (p15)
For the cables I recommend 2 of the SFF-8087 like you mentioned so you have failover options and/or a spare cable should something go awry.
 

itronin

Active Member
Nov 24, 2018
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Denver, Colorado
+2 for flashing the 2208 - it is not hard, scary maybe the first time you do it but not hard. the controller will be for all practical purposes a 2308 and is a good fit for 12x SAS2/SAS3 SSD's (your backplane is SAS2 and so is the controller so SAS3 SSDs will be limited to 6Gbps but should work fine).

did your chassis come with the 2 drive rear bays? if not, those can be found relatively inexpensively via the bay and work well for boot drives, leaving your front 12 bays for the "good stuff".

Edit: one added benefit of using the onboard controller is that the SAS2 ports on that motherboard line up with the cable management slot in that chassis for convenient pass through to the drive bay and expander. If your system came with the motherboard pre-installed there may only be 1 sas cable in there, you can use that for the time being or add a second one. The "3M" flat SAS2 cables with sideband work great there and fold very easily for clean cable management. if it were me I'd get the flat sas2 cables and replace it for a nice clean install (if you have budget that is).
 

zecas

New Member
Dec 6, 2019
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You should be able to flash the LSI (Broadcom) 2208 firmware to IT mode and use it just fine without an add-on card.
Yes I believe so, and someone also told me around these forums that basically it's very easy. I guess I'm worried about something going wrong and bricking the motherboard, or even a future interest in reverting and going back to RAID (can't think of why I would want that at the moment).


+1 for flashing the chip on the board ^, but if you're truly set on going with a separate HBA any of the cards that are comparable the 9211-8i in it-mode for standard data drives, if you need to have multiple SSD or if you want to future proof yourself a little more pick up a 9207-8i in it-mode (it is the 2308 controller with dual processors).

How many SSD are you wanting to add? (if 2 or less you could hook them up to the two white internal SATA3 ports)

https://www.supermicro.com/manuals/other/BPN-SAS2-826EL_1.0.pdf
Chapter 3 (p15)
For the cables I recommend 2 of the SFF-8087 like you mentioned so you have failover options and/or a spare cable should something go awry.
So only 1 cable is enough for connecting all 12 LFF front drives, but I should get a second one stored just in case ... well, I guess you're right, a backup cable makes sense. At the moment I only have the one that come with the motherboard+backplane, it's connected to motherboard->backplane-J0.


I did a search for the 9207-8i you stated, and found the following one:

LSI SAS 9207-8i 6Gb/s PCI-E 3.0 LSI00301 IT Mode SATA SAS RAID Controller Card
LSI SAS 9207-8i 6Gb/s PCI-E 3.0 LSI00301 IT Mode SATA SAS RAID Controller Card | eBay

So the idea is that these models have chipset 2308 which will provide a better bandwith/performance for managing multiple SSDs (say for instance 4-6 SSDs and 3-4 spinning drives)?


I'm planning on putting 2 drives (mirror) for proxmox OS, then 4 drives (2x2 mirror) for VM data. If going all SATA SSD drives (also considering NVMe), I'm planning something similar to:

Proxmox OS:
2x Samsung 860 EVO 256Gb as ZFS mirror (with grub), created by proxmox install wizard

For virtualization data itself:
1x ZFS pool, composed of:
- zdev-1 (mirror) : 2x Samsung SSD 860 PRO 512Gb
- zdev-2 (mirror) : 2x Samsung SSD 860 PRO 512Gb

I'm planning putting the OS drives connected to SATA3 internal connectors (on motherboard itself), and leaving the front caddies for VM data. But I'll also adding some spinning drives just for storing backups and reduce SSD wear from such kind of tasks. So internally, only OS drives will be plugged on SATA3 connectors available.


Thank you again for your help. I really appreciate it to assure I come up with a working server :)
 

zecas

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Dec 6, 2019
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+2 for flashing the 2208 - it is not hard, scary maybe the first time you do it but not hard. the controller will be for all practical purposes a 2308 and is a good fit for 12x SAS2/SAS3 SSD's (your backplane is SAS2 and so is the controller so SAS3 SSDs will be limited to 6Gbps but should work fine).

did your chassis come with the 2 drive rear bays? if not, those can be found relatively inexpensively via the bay and work well for boot drives, leaving your front 12 bays for the "good stuff".

Edit: one added benefit of using the onboard controller is that the SAS2 ports on that motherboard line up with the cable management slot in that chassis for convenient pass through to the drive bay and expander. If your system came with the motherboard pre-installed there may only be 1 sas cable in there, you can use that for the time being or add a second one. The "3M" flat SAS2 cables with sideband work great there and fold very easily for clean cable management. if it were me I'd get the flat sas2 cables and replace it for a nice clean install (if you have budget that is).
I guess the main reason is basically scare to brick the motherboard :) and not able to revert it back if needed.

My chassis did not came with those 2 drive rear bays, but I'll boot from 2 mirror SSD disks, which I was planning to install internally (somehow) and connect directly to SATA3 motherboard connectors. The front bays would definitely be used for the juicy bits :). Didn't thought about searching for those rear bays ... thank you for pointing it out, I'll take it into serious consideration as it really makes it easy for mounting those boot disks.

The chassis+mobo+backplane also came with a SAS cable connecting them and nicely set in-place. It's a shame to take it out and unfold it to connect to an HBA controller, maybe I'll get a second one for connecting to HBA controller and backplane (disconnecting the existing one).
 

itronin

Active Member
Nov 24, 2018
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Just out of curiosity did you buy this system on eBay and it was supposed to be the superstorage with the X9DRD (and IT controller) and the seller miss shipped you the superstorage server with the DRH-7TF? Just curious I dunno - maybe that also happened a second time... ;)

If you are going to install more than 4 enterprise grade SSD's you might think about installing that second SAS cable - cause it won't hurt anything and you might squeeze just a little more performance out of your array - assuming the storage stays local to the server.
 

zecas

New Member
Dec 6, 2019
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Just out of curiosity did you buy this system on eBay and it was supposed to be the superstorage with the X9DRD (and IT controller) and the seller miss shipped you the superstorage server with the DRH-7TF? Just curious I dunno - maybe that also happened a second time... ;)

If you are going to install more than 4 enterprise grade SSD's you might think about installing that second SAS cable - cause it won't hurt anything and you might squeeze just a little more performance out of your array - assuming the storage stays local to the server.
No, not me ... I got mine from ebay and chassis+mobo+backplane as described. I haven't checked out yet, maybe it comes in IT mode already ... :) must check how I check that ... eheh

Let me see if I understand, I will only have one SAS cable from HBA to J0 connector on backplane. If I put another HBA controller, I can run a cable from that second HBA to the other J1 connector on the same backplane? From the manual, that J1 connector should be used "To lower backplane in cascaded system".
(my backplane is the EL1 model: https://www.supermicro.com/manuals/other/BPN-SAS2-826EL_1.0.pdf)
 

itronin

Active Member
Nov 24, 2018
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No, not me ... I got mine from ebay and chassis+mobo+backplane as described. I haven't checked out yet, maybe it comes in IT mode already ... :) must check how I check that ... eheh

Let me see if I understand, I will only have one SAS cable from HBA to J0 connector on backplane. If I put another HBA controller, I can run a cable from that second HBA to the other J1 connector on the same backplane? From the manual, that J1 connector should be used "To lower backplane in cascaded system".
(my backplane is the EL1 model: https://www.supermicro.com/manuals/other/BPN-SAS2-826EL_1.0.pdf)
hmmmm... no, the the motherboard you listed should be configured for Raid mode, its a 2208.

second cable.
I was describing running two cables from the controller on the motherboard to the backplane .

what you described will require your OS/software and SAS drives will require dual-porting the drives. I'd steer clear of that at the start... first thing is to get you to IT mode whether you add an HBA or flash the onboard.

I'm not sure this was explicitly mentioned but the 2208 and 2308 series is a faster controller and with SSD's that will likely make a performant difference (depending on your workload). I think that's why other folks have been suggesting to reflash your onboard controller or look at something like a 9207-8i if you decide to.
 

zecas

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Dec 6, 2019
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hmmmm... no, the the motherboard you listed should be configured for Raid mode, its a 2208.

second cable.
I was describing running two cables from the controller on the motherboard to the backplane .

what you described will require your OS/software and SAS drives will require dual-porting the drives. I'd steer clear of that at the start... first thing is to get you to IT mode whether you add an HBA or flash the onboard.

I'm not sure this was explicitly mentioned but the 2208 and 2308 series is a faster controller and with SSD's that will likely make a performant difference (depending on your workload). I think that's why other folks have been suggesting to reflash your onboard controller or look at something like a 9207-8i if you decide to.
Yep, probably only raid, it should have proper firmware in place. But as soon as I have opportunity, I'll boot into raid controller and check what appears.

As for the second cable, I want to keep it as simple as I can, so I'll target one cable from HBA to backplane. I don't think I'll have any performance issues, if budget permits I'll go SATA3 SSDs just because they will be much quicker and efficient than some HGST 1Tb spinning disks. As I've said, I'll add some spinning disks but just for backup purposes, don't need to wear out the SSDs with some overnight backup tasks ...

So I'm now looking at 9207-8i, since it is should provide more performance, if only a little, and it will be more future proof.
This one is already flashed to IT mode and looks nice: LSI SAS 9207-8i 6Gb/s PCI-E 3.0 LSI00301 IT Mode SATA SAS RAID Controller Card | eBay

Also found one Supermicro AOC-S2308L-L8i, its a bit cheaper, don't know how a branded product ends on ebay with that price.
SuperMicro AOC-S2308L-L8i 8 Ports IT Mode PCIe 6Gb/s Server RAID Controller Card | eBay

From Supermicro site (RAID / HBA | Supermicro):
SAS/SATA AOC Model: AOC-S2308L-L8i
Controller/IOP: Broadcom SAS 2308
Port: 8 ports, 6Gb/s per port, 8 Internal, Low-profile, 63 SATA/SAS drives
RAID: RAID 0, 1, 10
So it is a raid card, but it is being sold as IT mode, without telling which firmware was put into, or is it possible that the original firmware allows to configure as IT mode? (maybe I'm better of with the LSI, and put myself on the safer side)


It comes from china, which put me a bit nervous (even though they are all made in there, anyway), but searching one in europe will double the price :O

Then I'll just have to connect a single cable Mini-SAS to Mini-SAS SFF8087 cable and magic happens.

What is the best way to test if a card is in full working condition? I would like to make some tests before using it with real data.
 

mysy

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Apr 2, 2020
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Yes . SAS 2208 doesn't support IT mode. it was only IMR mode fw. You could get other SAS2308 chipset card like 9207/9217 to IT mode. and it use SFF8087 interface.
 

BLinux

cat lover server enthusiast
Jul 7, 2016
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You can flash that onboard SAS2208 with the SAS2308 IT mode firmware. Demonstrated in this video it is possible:


There are instructions somewhere on this forum too.
 
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Freebsd1976

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Feb 23, 2018
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Yes . SAS 2208 doesn't support IT mode. it was only IMR mode fw. You could get other SAS2308 chipset card like 9207/9217 to IT mode. and it use SFF8087 interface.
Some sas2208 Card can crossflash to 2308 Card, so 2208 can support it firmware