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N54L->Gen 8 and not overly happy so far


LeeJS
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I'm in the process of migrating my rather simple setup from an N54L to the Gen 8 and I'm afraid I'm not altogether happy so far.

 

My setup in the N54L is very vanilla. I boot in to Lubuntu from a 1Tb disk mounted on the spare SATA port and then use all 4 drives of varying sizes as data storage. No RAID, just 1-2-1 mirrored backups once a week using rsync to some USB drives. The OS drive mounts samba shares to the data on the 4 drives; runs 3 virtual machines which write data mostly to shared folders on the 1Tb OS drive; Transmission; TVheadened and Emby. The virtual machines are all lightweight Turnkey Ubuntu which run headless and perform various tasks.

 

This all works quite nicely but the VMs can get a bit slow sometimes and a recent upgrade to Lubuntu messed up the boot sequence so I have to manually revert to an older kernel in recovery each time because the newer kernel says a disk UUID doesn't exist when it clearly does then drops to an ash shell where the keyboard stops working. I've tried 7 different ways to fix it from various forums and none of them have worked, so I took this as a sign to take advantage of a cheap replacement in the Gen8 and am starting again.

 

The Gen8 arrived very quickly and once opened, the problems started.

 

Firstly, the form factor. I quite liked the set of keys on the N54L and the large roomy area on the top which took a 3.5" drive. Sadly they're gone. The mechanism to remove the drives from the bays was much smoother on the old machine. On the Gen8, they're awkward to access and difficult to dis/engage. Small things, but not a great first impression.

 

Can't fit a 3.5" drive in the top of this one, so I had to buy a new 2.5" drive for the OS. Once Lubuntu was installed I inserted some test drives and it wouldn't boot. Had to rummage around in the BIOS after reading some posts on here and I think I've set it up right because it now works.

 

Booting into the OS now takes over 2 minutes, probably twice what it took the N54L. The video driver doesn't work very well and moving windows around the screen takes forever. There's no updated driver that I can find, although I haven't spent a huge amount of time looking to be fair. I'm hoping this can be resolved.

 

The VMs under Virtualbox seem to take forever to load as well. I haven't timed it yet but they feel way longer to start up. The sysload value of sabnzbd running under the Gen8 is also higher than under the N54L. I still have some more tests to run to confirm but it would appear that performance is worse under this than under the 54L :(

 

All in all I'm a little disappointed. I've replicated my previous setup and performance seems to be worse, not better. Given my use case is there anything I should be doing differently?

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Welcome,

The Gen 8 is a very different server compared to the Gen 7, it is a real Proliant server. What CPU and how much memory is in your Gen 8? Booting is slower due to the addition of iLo and checking the Sea of Sensors. The graphics in the Gen 8 is Matrox G200 it is embedded in the iLo chip. 

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I'm in the process of migrating my rather simple setup from an N54L to the Gen 8 and I'm afraid I'm not altogether happy so far.

 

Dont worry! You're not alone. I'm in the same boat. Coming from N38L this machine has been a PITA to configure. I heard so many good things about Gen8 and also based on experiences from N38L I thought upgrading to this machine would be the best option.... 

 

I've already lost data on one of the drives by just trying to make it work like a JBOD like I had in my old machine.

 

All the negatives aside, It is a great machine if you want to start from scratch, I believe it'll become a perfect NAS if you install new hard drives in RAID format. I'm currently trying to fix my N38L so that I can go back to it with my current data.

Once I have some extra cash to spend, my plan is to install 4x 5TB HDD's in RAID10

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That's good to know! Once you get inside it, this machine is clearly oriented to the SMB market, in a way that its predecessors were not. My problems - and I guess yours to some degree - come from the very lo-fi approach I'm using to set it up.

 

The good news is some of my concerns were allayed overnight following some further tests. The boot time I can live with, given the amount of overheads the machine has at startup. The form factor issues are small and once the machine is tucked away in its cubbyhole, I never have to worry about them again anyway.

 

The VM startup times were mostly in my imagination it would seem, as they fire up in roughly the same time as on the 54L. Thinking about it, the speed of startup is probably governed more by the hard drive it's reading from than the processor, so that should come as no surprise. Once they're running, the machines perform the same as they currently do according to my initial investigations.

 

My only remaining issue is the video output to my monitor. Everything is fine until you drag a window across the screen, at which point it grinds to a halt until it's moved it to its new resting place. You can watch it draw the edges of the window line by line like a gif loading 15 years ago. Everything inside the window itself is smooth and as expected: scrolling, highlighting, loading of pages in a browser. Even the mouse cursor and OS interactions are fine, it really is just moving windows. I only remote in to the desktop for maintenance anyway, so I could live with it, but still...

 

After reading about your data loss I'm wary of moving my data drives to the new machine so I still have that to do. I'm assuming your problem was down to Windows and that I don't need to worry under Ubuntu? I have backups, but restoring 12tb of data will not be a quick job!

 

Once I've bitten the bullet on that, I'm hoping I can use the 4Gb of RAM from the 54L in the Gen to 8 to double up to 8?

 

I'll keep this thread posted as I've seen very little in here about using Ubuntu on the Gen 8 and someone else may find it useful.

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My only remaining issue is the video output to my monitor. Everything is fine until you drag a window across the screen, at which point it grinds to a halt until it's moved it to its new resting place. You can watch it draw the edges of the window line by line like a gif loading 15 years ago. Everything inside the window itself is smooth and as expected: scrolling, highlighting, loading of pages in a browser. Even the mouse cursor and OS interactions are fine, it really is just moving windows. I only remote in to the desktop for maintenance anyway, so I could live with it, but still...

It sounds like you've not got a X server running that supports the Matrox G200 core inside the HP chipset.

 

Once I've bitten the bullet on that, I'm hoping I can use the 4Gb of RAM from the 54L in the Gen to 8 to double up to 8?

The Gen7 Microserver RAM isn't compatible with the Gen 8 Microserver.

 

I'll keep this thread posted as I've seen very little in here about using Ubuntu on the Gen 8 and someone else may find it useful.

Judging by the threads in this forum, most people are running Windows itself, Windows with Hyper-V or ESXi on the Gen8 Microserver. Ubuntu on bare metal doesn't appear to be very popular for the Gen8 Microserver at least. Ubuntu and RHEL/CentOS are the only two Linux distributions supported by HP for this machine.
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After reading about your data loss I'm wary of moving my data drives to the new machine so I still have that to do. I'm assuming your problem was down to Windows and that I don't need to worry under Ubuntu? I have backups, but restoring 12tb of data will not be a quick job!

 

 

My issue was/is that I'm using existing drives with no backups or spare. In my N36L (Not N38L as I stated above) I was having them as JBOD's which were recognised without having to create single arrays. 

Gen8 is a nice machine, both in its form factor and performance. Now just to be safe, the only thing I've done to it is install windows 10 in it. I'll add only newly bought drives then transfer data over.

 

I wonder how stable the single RAID 0 would be....

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It sounds like you've not got a X server running that supports the Matrox G200 core inside the HP chipset.

 

The Gen7 Microserver RAM isn't compatible with the Gen 8 Microserver.

 

That's disappointing but useful to know, thanks.

 

Does the solution in this thread sound like it addresses the X server issue?

http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=2222397

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I wonder how stable the single RAID 0 would be....

The B120i "RAID" controller inside the Gen8 Microserver is actually just the Intel SATA controller built into the chipset. HP just added custom firmware and a driver for it. If you don't have the firmware or the driver then it just works like a regular SATA controller. The point of the HP additions is that the on disk metadata format is the same on the B120i and their real hardware RAID SmartArray cards so you have an easy upgrade path.

 

The SATA controller can be set to operate in 3 different modes. B120i which is fake RAID, AHCI which is the standard PC interface and legacy which is back in the IDE days.

 

Advantages of B120i controller:

Easy to upgrade to a Smart Array card such as the P222

Allows RAID1 mirroring and/or RAID0 striping under ESXi.

Single drive RAID0 is the bare drive. Anything else involves HP proprietary RAID disk formats.

You can boot from the ODD port.

 

Disadvantages of B120i controller:

Performance isn't very good because it is software RAID.

Proprietary HP disk metadata format. If the Microserver fails and you've got HDD/SSDs that use the B120i controller in anything other than single drive RAID0 then you need to find another HP machine with a similar Dynamic Smart Array controller or a real Smart Array controller to access your data.

The Linux driver has a long standing issue which results in terrible performance. Downgrading to a very old version is required.

Driver is only available for Windows, RHEL/CentOS and Ubuntu.

Only port 1+2 are 6Gbps. All other ports including the ODD port are 3Gbps only.

 

Advantages of AHCI controller:

Everything supports it.

 

Disadvantages of AHCI controller:

You can't boot from the ODD port.

There are severe issues with the Gen8 Microserver SATA controller in AHCI mode with ESXi. B120i mode must be used.

Only port 1+2 are 6Gbps. All other ports including the ODD port are 3Gbps only.

 

Advantages of legacy controller:

None.

 

Disadvantages of legacy controller:

Everything. Use AHCI or B120i mode.

 

Advantages of Smart Array P222 card:

Fast as the card contains its own CPU to do the parity calculations.

Supports RAID5 and RAID6.

Non volatile cache to improve performance.

Reliable as it is from a long range of Smart Array RAID controllers.

Fully supported in Windows, Linux and ESXi.

Allows attachment of external drives.

All ports are 6Gbps.

 

Disadvantages of Smart Array P222 card:

Fairly expensive.

Uses only PCIe slot in the Gen8 Microserver.

Proprietary HP disk metadata format. If the card fails then you must replace the card to regain access to your data.

Edited by GotNoTime
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Does the solution in this thread sound like it addresses the X server issue?

http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=2222397

Looks like it. I don't use Ubuntu and I'm running ESXi on the Gen8 Microserver so I've not tested those modifications but it does sound right. I'd advise just lowering the resolution though as any modifications like that are unlikely to be supported and may cause issues. Edited by GotNoTime
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The SATA controller can be set to operate in 3 different modes. B120i which is fake RAID, AHCI which is the standard PC interface and legacy which is back in the IDE days.

 

I've read this on here a number of times and your pros/cons really break it down nicely. Thanks.

 

I want to be able to boot from a 2.5" drive in the ODD port and have 4 NTFS formatted drives in the bays. I do not want to have to reformat or RAID array the drives, just access them individually through the OS.

 

What are my options?

 

It seems to the simplest - but the least recommended - is to use Legacy. Is there a solution that means I can use AHCI without having to format the drives again?

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