The HP SAS Expander is a game changing device for home media storage enthusiasts and business customers alike - combine it with a low-cost RAID or HBA adapter and you've got 32 ports of harddisk connectivity for only a few hundred dollars.
Overview: The HP SAS Expander is based on the PMC Sierra PM8005 SAS-2 chip which features 36 x 6Gbps ports and 6G/3G multiplexing, SAS 2.0 zoning, self-configuration, table-to-table routing, and an integrated MIPS processor for SES and enclosure management support. Full specs here: http://www.pmc-sierra.com/products/details/pm8005/
Q: What's so special about this card?
A: The PM8005 chip has proven to be more compatible in more HBA/Drive configurations than previous generation expanders like the LSI-based Chenbro CK series. While HP intended this card be used in their enterprise products (HP Proliant servers, etc) the card is driverless and essentially "universal" since it follows SAS/SAS-2 specs and can be used with non-HP branded RAID and non-RAID HBA cards. What's unique is the ability to connect 32 drives at a relatively low cost, when combined with a low cost 4 or 8 port RAID or non-RAID HBA.
Q: Where do I purchase this card and why do I want the green card and NOT the yellow card?
A: There are multiple hardware versions of this card, available from Amazon, ebay, etc. The yellow PCB version is the oldest hardware revision, has a smaller heatsink, and CANNOT be flash upgraded from its v.0.20. The green PCB cards are the newer hardware revision. I've bought green PCB cards from ebay and they came with firmware v1.00. I've bought a card from Amazon and it came with v1.52. Shipping firmware will depend how old your source's inventory is. To work correctly at 3Gbps with newer SATA2 drives you need firmware v1.52 firmware or higher. Click thumbnail to see a side-by-side of both cards. DO NOT buy the yellow PCB card, it is useless and will not work.
Q: How do I install the HP SAS Expander and what are the power requirements?
A: The card needs an x4 PCIe slot on a motherboard and draws 11 watts of power. The card doesn't require software drivers, it is invisible to the operating system and motherboard. A common dilemma is people needing to use this card in an empty chassis like a Norco RPC-4220 to create a JBOD enclosure. Some people have resorted to using an old motherboard serve as a power source and ON/OFF switch for the chassis - such a solution costs significantly less than buying a prefab expander chassis. Unfortunately this card has no external 4-pin Molex power connector like the Intel RES2SV240, another highly recommended SAS expander card, but in exchange you're getting 36 ports instead of 24 on the Intel.
Q: How do I connect harddisks to the HP SAS Expander?
A: There are 9 ports total which can connect four harddisks each. The external SFF-8088 port is Port #1. The internal SFF-8087 are Port #2 through Port #9. I recommend populating drives beginning with internal Port #2. To uplink the expander to your RAID/HBA, connect to Port #8 on the expander with an SFF-8087 cable from your RAID/HBA. If your RAID/HBA has an external SFF-8088 connector, connect to Port #1 on the expander with an external SFF-8088 cable.
Q: How many cables do I need to connect the HP SAS expander to my RAID or HBA card?
A: You only need 1. However some newer SAS-2 based RAID and HBA cards support link aggregation with two SFF-8087 cables connected between the RAID/HBA and ports #8 and #9 on the expander, effectively doubling bandwidth.
Q: How many harddisks can you attach to the HP SAS expander?
A: Up to 32. I've stress tested various configurations including a RAID6 array with 32 x 1Tb drives and had no issues.
Q: Why do I need firmware 1.52 or higher on the HP SAS Expander?
A: The most notable change in firmware 1.52 brought upgraded SAS/SATA speeds from 3Gbps/1.5Gbps to 6Gbps/3Gbps respectively. Most newer harddisks ship defaulted to 3Gbps, and for compatibility and performance reasons firmware 1.52 or higher is recommended.
Q: How do I update the firmware on the HP SAS Expander?
A: A flash update requires a newer HP branded RAID card- P212, P410, P411, or P712. If you have a green PCB card with lower than firmware v1.52, you can post in this thread and someone may be able to flash it for you.
Q: Which RAID adapters, HBA cards and motherboards have been tested with the HP SAS Expander?
A: In general if your card is SAS compliant and vendor specs state that it supports expanders, it *should* work, but there are some exceptions. In general if your card is SAS 2.0 compliant it should also support dual-linking (2 x SFF-8087 uplinks). The following devices were tested by me personally unless stated otherwise.
Areca ARC-1880 series: YES (dual linking supported)
Areca ARC-1680 series: YES
IBM M1015: YES (SAS2008 based card, dual linking supported)
3ware 9690SA Series: YES (verified by SeanG)
Highpoint 4320 SAS: YES (verified by Dgephri)
Adaptec 5085: No
Adaptec 5805: No
HP P212, P410, P410i, P411, P411i, P712: YES* (requires minimum of 256MB cache on RAID controller card)
Non-RAID HBA cards
LSI SAS 9211-4i, 9211-8i: YES (dual linking supported on 9211-8i model)
LSI SAS3081E-R: YES
Intel SASUC8I (cross-flashed to LSI 1068e firmware): YES
Supermicro AOC-SASLP-MV8: YES
SuperMicro AOC-USAS-L8i: YES (Confirmed by Tau)
Areca ARC-1300-4X: YES (Not recommended due to mediocre performance and no SMART passthrough)
Adaptec 1045 (1 x SFF-8088): No
Adaptec 1405 (1 x SFF-8087): No
Supermicro X8SI6-F (LSI SAS2008): YES (Dual Linking supported)
Supermicro X8DTH-6/X8DTH-6F (LSI SAS2008): YES (Dual Linking supported)
Supermicro X8DT6/X8DT6-F (LSI SAS2008): YES (Dual Linking supported)
Supermicro X8DA6 (LSI SAS2008): YES (Dual Linking supported)
*Note: In theory any motherboard with the LSI SAS2008 chip should work, especially when the SAS chip BIOS is cross-flashed to the latest LSI 9211-8i "IT" firmware.
1) HP SAS Expander will only negotiate SATA-III harddisks at 3G (SATA300) even though it is capable of 6G (SATA600). It does however negotiate SAS disks at 6G.
2) In combination with an Areca 1880 series controller, certain Western Digital harddisks (Velociraptor, etc) when configured in a raid volume will cause Areca boot-time firmware initialization to hang when connected to the HP SAS Expander. This is an issue Areca needs to resolve, but something to be aware of.
* CHANGE LOG *
3/23/2011: Added KNOWN ISSUES section
3/9/2011: IBM M1015 (SAS2008) added to HCL
2/28/2011: New firmware 2.08
10/23/2010: Confirmed several Supermicro motherboards with integrated LSI SAS2008 chip supported
10/23/2010: Added motherboard section to HCL.
10/15/2010: Confirmed dual-linking supported with LSI 9211-8i More info here.
10/10/2010: Confirmed dual-linking supported with Areca 1880i. More info here.
10/9/2010: Areca ARC-1880 series added to HCL
10/8/2010: LSI SAS 9211-xx series added to HCL
10/7/2010: Intel SASUC8I and LSI SAS3081E-R added to HCL
10/6/2010: LSI SAS 9211-xx series added to HCL