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Interesting - Smart Array P212 may be "supported" in the Gen8 (still testing)


LoneWolf
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(note:  "Supported" is stated in quotes because while not officially an HP supported configuration, it may be that this configuration works in some of the ways an enthusiast user would hope, including possible sensor information or ability to configure the part through HP enhanced methods such as Intelligent Provisioning).

 

The 7th gen HP Smart Array P212 and P410 controllers are known to many here who used the NL36, NL40, and NL54 (Gen7) Microservers.  Though not officially supported, they worked great, and provided many new server enthusiasts their first taste of hardware RAID.

 

Fast forward to the Microserver Gen8 and a new generation of  HP Smart Array controllers.  While I switched out to the P222 soon in the game, some people ran the old one and reported fan speed issues and other such things.  It was widely regarded as "not fully compatible"; the BIOS was not aware of it, or the iLO, and as an unrecognized piece of hardware, it could cause the system's fans to speed up and become noisier than expected.

 

The P212 controller is now available for cheap, having been replaced by the Gen8 and now Gen9 controllers.  I picked up one used, with 256MB of cache and a backup battery for $18.  That's $100 less (or greater) than the P222, which for that price may still need a cache module and a super-capacitor.  I did it more because I needed a full-height mounting plate for another (which it turned out I didn't need).  I added the P212 to the Geni8 because I'd like to have a testing platform.  I put two 2TB WD Greens in it that I'd used wdidle3 to set Intellipark to 300 seconds instead of the default 8 seconds.  These are not optimal RAID drives, mind you; I just happen to have two nearly idential WD20EARS drives, and with Intellipark dialed back or disabled, this greatly mitigates their most problematic issue for RAID other than that they don't support TLER (which is why the WD Red is a much better choice unless you're just lab testing like I am in this case).

 

Interesting thing --the onboard Intelligent Provisioning recognizes the P212 and was able to set them up for RAID-1 without using the Offline Array Configuration Utility.  That by itself is great, though not fully conclusive, so I plugged the system's iLO in and plugged the Gen8 into power, and logged in (no OS installed yet).  The Event Log actually reports that the Cache module battery is charging, and that caching will be enabled once the battery is fully charged, as well as other controller messages, another step further.  Further, the fan (so far) has been quiet (though this is inconclusive, I don't have an operating system installed yet).

 

So then I realized the controller firmware was ancient too, at 3.50.  Used the iLO to boot the HP Service Pack, and updated the P212 firmware to 6.64.  The iLO still does not report the controller's existance in the Storage area, but it also reports that this may be preliminary due to the system not having passed POST.  I will be installing Server 2016 Technical Preview 4 so I can test, and will add the drivers and Agentless Management service to see if this adds any changes.  Note also:  The controller is also listed in the graphical BIOS screen that occurs after processor initialization; I am unsure if this occured prior to or after the firmware update.

 

 

In the mean time, even if not fully supported, this is a lot of controller for the money, and IMO a good fit for the Microserver Gen8 as long as you aren't expecting to use this box as a completely silent PC (I have not fully fan-tested yet).  You can also upgrade the 256MB cache to 512MB or 1GB, which will increase the data path from 40 bits to 72 bits and further enhance performance.  More details as I have them.

Edited by LoneWolf
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The P212 and P410 are great RAID controllers and as you have said the prices have fallen drastically. Reading your post had me remembering, I opened the box on my MS Gen8 on August 1, 2013! I wonder what the longest period of time is for a single server model to have been in production? The firmware has evolved over that time, I know iLo did not read the sensors on the P212 then, but that was 2.5 years ago! Look forward to see if that has changed. The only other potential limitation with the P212/P410 is they only support 3Gb/s on SATA drives, SAS run at 6Gb/s. Not a big dip in performance running 6Gb/s SATA drives at 3Gb/s. Also there are great deals on 2TB and 3TB SAS drives.  

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UPDATE: Sadly, any additional features are not supported.  Even after driver installs, iLO channel driver, iLO Agentless Management, etc. the controller still does not identify in the iLO itself, other than that it appears a few of its events are reported to the iLO log.

 

With the two-drive RAID-1 array, the fan is at 18% in Optimized mode running Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 4, which is better than when I had four WD Red drives in RAID-5 on the P222 in the same system.  All of the Server 2012 R2 drivers installed in 2016 without incident.

 

In summary, it's a configuration that works well, performs reasonably, but is not fully integrated.  Some of the events are passed through the log, but the array is not reported the way it would be on a P222, nor is the firmware level of the controller itself.  I would say that 3Gbps vs 6Gbps isn't a big deal with mechanical drives that can't reach the second standard in most cases (especially mainstream drives), and may not offer full performance to SSDs, but SSDs, I don't think one would notice, and most people would probably use the B120i for those and run them for the boot OS, and then use the hardware RAID controller for their mechanicals where it will do the most good.

 

On the bright side, Intelligent Provisioning and the Smart Storage Administrator mean no longer having to have the Offline Array Configuration Utility CD lying around, and this is no worse a configuration than say a ThinkServer TS140 or Dell T20 using an LSI controller (with the HP utility being easier to use than the GUI BIOS of the LSI, I'd say it's a little nicer in some ways), and it's cheaper.

 

SchoonDoggy:  I'm pretty sure the Gen8's backplane doesn't support SAS drives.  Has anyone ever tried it?

Edited by LoneWolf
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UPDATE: Sadly, any additional features are not supported.  Even after driver installs, iLO channel driver, iLO Agentless Management, etc. the controller still does not identify in the iLO itself, other than that it appears a few of its events are reported to the iLO log.

 

With the two-drive RAID-1 array, the fan is at 18% in Optimized mode running Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 4, which is better than when I had four WD Red drives in RAID-5 on the P222 in the same system.  All of the Server 2012 R2 drivers installed in 2016 without incident.

 

In summary, it's a configuration that works well, performs reasonably, but is not fully integrated.  Some of the events are passed through the log, but the array is not reported the way it would be on a P222, nor is the firmware level of the controller itself.  I would say that 3Gbps vs 6Gbps isn't a big deal with mechanical drives that can't reach the second standard in most cases (especially mainstream drives), and may not offer full performance to SSDs, but SSDs, I don't think one would notice, and most people would probably use the B120i for those and run them for the boot OS, and then use the hardware RAID controller for their mechanicals where it will do the most good.

 

On the bright side, Intelligent Provisioning and the Smart Storage Administrator mean no longer having to have the Offline Array Configuration Utility CD lying around, and this is no worse a configuration than say a ThinkServer TS140 or Dell T20 using an LSI controller (with the HP utility being easier to use than the GUI BIOS of the LSI, I'd say it's a little nicer in some ways), and it's cheaper.

 

SchoonDoggy:  I'm pretty sure the Gen8's backplane doesn't support SAS drives.  Has anyone ever tried it?

I have run SAS drives in all of the MicroServers, N36l-N40l-N54l-Gen8, The back-planes are not dual port and do not have any of the advanced features of SAS, but paired with a SAS RAID card they work fine.

My N54l running Home Server 2011 has a P410 with four Seagate 2TB SAS Seagate Constellations.

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Good to know.  The only SAS drives I had here (Constellation 1TBs) were not big enough for my full time use, so I paired them with an LSI 9261-8i where I was direct-cabling them, and sent them on their merry way with a box I don't have any more.

 

My ML310e should support full SAS, especially once the hotswap backplane gets here, but at this time I have no reason for it in a home environment.

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  • 6 months later...

UPDATE: Sadly, any additional features are not supported.  Even after driver installs, iLO channel driver, iLO Agentless Management, etc. the controller still does not identify in the iLO itself, other than that it appears a few of its events are reported to the iLO log.

 

With the two-drive RAID-1 array, the fan is at 18% in Optimized mode running Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 4, which is better than when I had four WD Red drives in RAID-5 on the P222 in the same system.  All of the Server 2012 R2 drivers installed in 2016 without incident.

 

In summary, it's a configuration that works well, performs reasonably, but is not fully integrated.  Some of the events are passed through the log, but the array is not reported the way it would be on a P222, nor is the firmware level of the controller itself.  I would say that 3Gbps vs 6Gbps isn't a big deal with mechanical drives that can't reach the second standard in most cases (especially mainstream drives), and may not offer full performance to SSDs, but SSDs, I don't think one would notice, and most people would probably use the B120i for those and run them for the boot OS, and then use the hardware RAID controller for their mechanicals where it will do the most good.

 

On the bright side, Intelligent Provisioning and the Smart Storage Administrator mean no longer having to have the Offline Array Configuration Utility CD lying around, and this is no worse a configuration than say a ThinkServer TS140 or Dell T20 using an LSI controller (with the HP utility being easier to use than the GUI BIOS of the LSI, I'd say it's a little nicer in some ways), and it's cheaper.

 

SchoonDoggy:  I'm pretty sure the Gen8's backplane doesn't support SAS drives.  Has anyone ever tried it?

 

Sorry for some Outdated Thread Resurrection-- I was wondering if you were able to get he RAID 5 to function with the gen8 microserver and the P212 card? I really just want a cheap(ish) way to run raid 5 since--well, since raid 5 is kind of awesome. and I only have three drives at the moment. :-P 

 

thanks! 

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Sorry for some Outdated Thread Resurrection-- I was wondering if you were able to get he RAID 5 to function with the gen8 microserver and the P212 card? I really just want a cheap(ish) way to run raid 5 since--well, since raid 5 is kind of awesome. and I only have three drives at the moment. :-P 

 

thanks! 

 

I guess it works. Are there any obstacles that you encountered?

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I was just about to ask you the same question :-P 

I haven't tried yet (was hoping to hear if it would work before purchasing any hardware). i was hoping for hardware raid 5 support with the p212. any luck on your end?

 

I guess it works. Are there any obstacles that you encountered?

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RAID 5 works on the P212 as long as you have the cache module installed. The P212 runs SATA drives at 3Gb/s and SAS at 6Gb/s. It does not show up in iLo on the Gen8.

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