So I was trying to install the new SBS 2011 Essentials for testing in our office on a new Dell PowerEdge T310 with a H200 controller, and this is how I spent most of a weekend.

For the hardware I chose Dell PE T310 as it is the smallest Dell server that offers dual redundant power supplies and iDRAC (lights out remote control). I like to run two sets or RAID 1 mirror arrays for small businesses. For the RAID controller I picked the H200 internal hot plug 6Gbps, since there is not SQL or Exchange running on the box I chose the cheapest of the fast 6Gbps hardware RAID controllers. That is how I lost a weekend trying to install SBS Essentials. If I had to do it over again (which I will), I would choose the older PERC 6/I controller instead of the H200. So this blog turns out to be what I learned about the Dell H200 RAID controller (or maybe the entire H series). 

1)    Using your own drives –

I occasionally add my own Seagate brand (not Dell branded drives) either before my initial install, or as storage needs increase later.  Seagate drives purchased independantly have a 5 year warranty and are 3 to 1 cheaper. This plan does not work well with this controller. We tried Seagate 2TB drives, Seagate 500GB drives and Dell branded WD 250GB drives (all SATA). I could not get the OS to see the second array. Initially Dell wanted to blame the problem on the Seagate drives. Keep reading…

2)    Array creation order –

According to Dell, after hours of trying, determined that the RAID arrays need to be created in backwards order for some reason. In other words, the second Data array needs to be created before the System OS array. What, why, whose idea was this? Really? So the only I could get it to recognize the second array, was to do the following:

  • Backup the OS array (if you already have it installed)
  • Delete all arrays
  • Create the Data array first
  • Create the OS array second
  • Use the install CD to restore the OS from backups

3)   Drivers and firmware –

I guess I have been getting spoiled by all the new OS’s working fine with the Windows built-in controller driver.  Not the case with the H200, it needed the latest driver from the Dell support site to see the second array. I have not run across a controller before that needed a driver just to see the second drive array.

  • Update the RAID Firmware
  • Update the Windows RAID driver

The end result is a working SBS 2011 Essentials server, with two drive arrays, but the Dell Open Manage console shows storage errors on my drives.

‘Non-critial warning – is not a certified drive’ is entered into the syslog every few hours.

This may be an issue with all of the new H series RAID controllers from Dell. According to this article on The Register non-Dell branded drives are blocked on the H700 controller as well. . Mine were not blocked, just warnings, but then again I did install the OS on Dell drives. So what I learned is stick with the PERC 6/i controller if you want to add your own drives at some point.

My next posting should be about our findings with Small Business Server 2011 Essentials.

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Filed under: Dell PowerEdge T310Small Business Server 2011 Essentials

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