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Gen8 Adaptec 6805E ESXi Passthrough problems


Oceanic
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Hi

 

This is my first attempt at virtualisation and using a “proper server” and I’m hitting some pass-through problems using ESXi with an Adaptec 6805e that I am hoping someone can help me with

 

Background :

I bought a HP ProLiant MircoServer Gen8 G2020T (B120i 2x1Gb 1x4Gb 2x1Tb SATA LFF NHP DVD-RW 1x200W) a few months ago for £230 and promptly upgraded it with 16Gb, a E3-1265LV2 processor, two 6Tb WD Reds for data storage and a 500Gb Samsung 840 SSD for OSs (mounted using the excellent Schoondoggy drive bracket)

 

The main reason for purchase was to:

  • replace an ageing HP MediaSmart EX495 which was primarily used as a NAS for storage of photos and docs

  • to become familiar with virtualisation technology

  • to become a Plex server for the house

  • to run a Linux LAMP server for web development

  • and maybe a NVR if I can find the right software

 

I initially was looking at FreeNAS but after research found that it should not be used on virtual servers in production and would required me to purchase an extra two 6 Tb drives as a minimum to work. Ideally I was looking for a solution that allowed me to plonk additional drives in as I need them, so I parked the FreeNAS option for the time being.

 

I had read good things about DrivePool used in conjunction with Stablebit Scanner and liked the fact that I could keep added and changing drives in the pool (unlike FreeNAS that seemed very restrictive in that respect) and the fact that it would auto migrate data onto another drive if it was in danger. I also read that the drives should be presented to the OS in AHCI mode for the stablebit scanner to work to its full potential (via SMART). I looked at WS2012R2Essentials but couldn’t justify the costs so decided to go with WHS2011 to install DrivePool/Scanner software on.

 

Initially I installed and booted ESXi 5.5 (using VMware-ESXi-5.5.0-Update2-2068190-HP-5.77.3-Nov2014) from a USB stick on the internal USB socket and disconnecting the optical drive and attaching the 500Gb SSD to it instead. I configured the SSD to be the DataStore for ESXi and then tried to configure the two 6TB drives (in the non hot swap drive bays) as pass-through. It was at this point I realised that the pass-through feature works at a storage controller level and not a drive level and the whole of the B120i (including the SSD DataStore) would be passed through.

 

To overcome this my idea was to buy another storage controller. I wasn’t sure if the P222 controller could be configured for AHCI mode and was concerned about fan noise using the HP storage controllers in AHCI mode so I decided to go for an Adaptec 6805E at £191 as it had a SFF-8087 connector on it that I could attached the Gen8’s drives bays straight onto. This way I could reconnect the optical drive to the motherboard and the SSD onto the mini SAS connector (via a breakout cable) on the motherboard (giving me the added bonus of SATA 3 on the SSD). The B120i was set in AHCI mode and the two 6tb drives were attached as JBOD to the Adaptec controller. At first the Adaptec storage controller was not recognised by ESXi but after painful installation of the Adaptec driver (aacraid_vmware_drivers_1.2.1-40301_cert) the storage controller and drivers could be seen in the vSphere client. I am surprised that ESXi didn't contain the adaptec drivers and how difficult it was to install these drivers afterwards on the ESXi host. I then passed-through the Adaptec controller to the VMWare host and rebooted. At this point I could edit the WHS2011 guest host to add in the PCI Adaptec ACCRAID device to the WHS2011 guest host.

 

The problem

My problems occur when I switched on the guest WHS2011 with the passthrough Adaptec controller attached. It immediately throws up the following error in the vSphere Client

 

Failed to start the virtual machine.

Failed to register the device pciPassthru0 for 7:0.0 due to unavailable hardware or software support

 

Does anyone know what I am doing wrong here? Maybe I have bought the wrong card and it’s not possible to passthrough JBOD on this card or its just incorrectly configured.

 

I still have the option of returning the Adaptec card so if there is any better (and cheaper options) to do this please let me know. Ideally would like 8 ports cards to keep open the options of adding extra disk in the future, ideally with eSATA.

 

Maybe the DrivePool/Scanner option on ESXi is a bad idea in the first place, has anyone got this working with full drive SMART reporting to the DrivePool/Scanner software?

 

In hind sight I think I have set the B120i to the wrong mode (AHCI), I did this so the WHS2011 guest DrivePool/Scanner software could scan the SSD but I don’t think this DataStore drive will be visible to the VM. Maybe it will be better to set the SSD up on the B120i as a Single Raid0 drive to keep the fan speed down?

 

Any help and advice is appreciated

 

Sorry for my long first post

 

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I believe update 4 fixes passthrough on the Gen8, however that is not going to help in this instance as your CPU does not have VT-d for device passthrough.

 

You will need one of the Xeon options for VT-d

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Thanks for the response. I upgraded the server with a Xeon E3-1265LV2 processor which I believe supports the VT-d technology.

 

How do I check if I have update 4 installed? I did perform an update on the Gen8 in the past but I am not sure if I did it correctly as I read that other people had to register with HP (including the date of purchase) which I have not done so far.

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Make sure VT-d is enabled in the bios, you want to update esxi to 5.5 update 4 which fixes broken passthrough on gen8s in 5.5

Edited by Ricimer
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Thanks for the response. I upgraded the server with a Xeon E3-1265LV2 processor which I believe supports the VT-d technology.

 

How do I check if I have update 4 installed? I did perform an update on the Gen8 in the past but I am not sure if I did it correctly as I read that other people had to register with HP (including the date of purchase) which I have not done so far.

 You need ESXi build 2403361 as a minimum.  This is the build with the fix in it.  I posted the links somewhere in this forum.. but you can get it straight from vmware.

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Brilliant - I installed the latest ESXi patch (build 2456374) and everything is now working.

 

Thanks so much for your help. These forums are a wealth of amazing knowledge

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Brilliant - I installed the latest ESXi patch (build 2456374) and everything is now working.

 

Thanks so much for your help. These forums are a wealth of amazing knowledge

 

Another satisfied customer :D

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I should have done some more testing prior to my post above as I am hitting some more issues

 

When I installed the DrivePool software it has detected the two 6TB drives and allowed me to join them together in a pool and everything seemed to work ok, however

 

- After installing DrivePool (v2.1.1.56 the latest version) WHS2011 hangs on the next reboot when Windows is starting, the only way I can get past this to delete the VM and reinstall WHS2011 again. Prior to installing DrivePool the WHS2011 rebooted fine. No other software has been installed on WHS2011 (not even the 149+ security patches)

- If I install Scanner via a Connected computer (prior to rebooting) Scanner can not read any of the SMART information on the passthrough WD drives, ideally I want scanner to read the SMART information. Is this possible on a passthrough drive?

 

Does anyone know what might be causing these problems?

 

Thanks

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