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RAID Controller on a Budget - HP P400i

post #1 of 65
Thread Starter 
So, I suppose you could call this a review or build log of sorts, but it's more of a story and with a happy ending.

I recently decided that I needed to get my home server off the software RAID and onto a real RAID card. The problem being that I really didn't want to break the bank. This being the case, I figured used would be a good way to go-- off to eBay! I stumbled around looking at what was available, filtering through the cheap "RAID" cards and wincing at the uber expensive ones, when I stumbled upon the 'ol HP P400.

The P400 has had a rough history; I should know, we have a few of them here at work. They have a reputation of painfully slow performance in RAID 5, and rightfully so, they were so painfully slow. However, one day I was checking on the servers that had those cards in them and realized that they were very much overdue for a firmware upgrade. They were sitting on 5.1x and HP had released 7.xx not too long ago. Figured why not, can't make them slower than they are, and proceeded to download the firmware and upgrade the cards.

After the upgrade, these suckers were fast. Back-up speeds were at least 2-3 times faster, and the network was now the bottleneck instead of the controller. With wide eyes, I scanned over the Firmware history, and discovered that around version 5.2x, HP had found the source of the performance problems with RAID 5/6 configurations, and fixed it.

So back to my home server. It seemed these cards still don't seem to be valued very high, being proprietary cards and having a poor history. So, as an experiment, I grabbed this guy for $35 (was amazed that he accepted my offer, honestly):
http://www.ebay.com/itm/261097455277?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1439.l2649

When I received the card, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it had come with a 512MB cache stick instead of the advertised 256MB. Lucky me! However, I had forgotten that they came with the slim PCI brackets. That lead me to buy one of these:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/200798138321?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1439.l2649

So, now I'm into this decent RAID card with battery backup for only $46 so far, but still needed a SAS/SATA cable. So I visited Newegg and grabbed one of these:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16812228053

That was almost as expensive as the RAID card it's self...! Brought the total up to $77.99; a number I am still very pleased with. Looking back, I wish I had looked for a 90 degree adapter, since the way the ports come out of the bottom of the card are a little awkward, but live and learn.

My home server is running the ProxMox hypervisor. It's a decent hypervisor that utilizes KVM in the Linux kernel. It has a nice web interface and has the ability to do OpenVZ as well (I ran into performance issues with OpenVZ, so I avoid it). The P400i is attached to three 7200RPM 500GB SATA drives running in RAID 5 for capacity. Each virtual machine is running off of a QCOW drive, and the Windows server I did the testing on is attached to the drive using the IDE interface.

After I got the card, I needed to download the offline configuration tool from HP's website, as well as the offline firmware upgrade utility. The card didn't seem to care that it was running in a non-HP box, and configured and upgraded without a hitch.

To wrap this up, I am actually very pleasantly surprised with it's performance! Previously, I had long load times and database queries were slower than hell. I had started to regret virtualizing, and had wished I had just left the server running straight Windows Server 2003. Here is the CrystalDiskMark results from within the Windows Server 2003 VM:



Just for a comparison, here is my work laptop; a measly 2.5" 5400RPM 160GB drive:



And that's my story! I don't know that I have the best card out there, but I'm certainly pleased with the results. A stand-alone RAID card with on-board cache with battery backup for $80? I'm happy smile.gif

Let me know what you guys think! Was there a better way to go about this?
Edited by SectorNine50 - 12/4/12 at 2:39pm
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post #2 of 65
For $80, I wouldn't complain! thumb.gif
post #3 of 65
Excellent post. I'm glad to see some actual sever info in here for once!

I've toyed with the idea of moving to a HP device.

Thanks!
    
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post #4 of 65
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by 350 Malibu View Post

For $80, I wouldn't complain! thumb.gif

Absolutely! No complaints here! I'm just glad to see this kind of performance from SATA drives. Maybe some day I'll make the leap to a few SAS drives and really take advantage of this card. smile.gif
Quote:
Originally Posted by killabytes View Post

Excellent post. I'm glad to see some actual sever info in here for once!
I've toyed with the idea of moving to a HP device.
Thanks!

Glad to help! thumb.gif

I actually really recommend this card once they are upgraded. The thing has been solid and the HP interface makes configuring everything very, very easy. I haven't researched much, but I know there is an online configuration tool for Windows, so I imagine that there is one for Linux as well (HP's Linux server support is really pretty good).
Edited by SectorNine50 - 12/4/12 at 7:45pm
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post #5 of 65
which firmware did you use? i tried this about a year ago and the card didn't recognize any drive.
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post #6 of 65
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dream Killer View Post

which firmware did you use? i tried this about a year ago and the card didn't recognize any drive.

I believe it was 7.22
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post #7 of 65
The only downside to this card, just like the PERC 5/6i cards, is that to my knowledge they do not support any drives past 2TB, otherwise they use an LSI 1078 chip, same as the PERC's, and are cheap as can be. By the way, you can get cables on Ebay or Amazon for around $10 if you don't mind waiting a few weeks for them to get here from China.
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post #8 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by utnorris View Post

The only downside to this card, just like the PERC 5/6i cards, is that to my knowledge they do not support any drives past 2TB, otherwise they use an LSI 1078 chip, same as the PERC's, and are cheap as can be. By the way, you can get cables on Ebay or Amazon for around $10 if you don't mind waiting a few weeks for them to get here from China.

Yup. Controllers that use the LSI SAS 2008 and newer RoC can support drives larger than 2TB. The Dell series started using the LSI SAS 2108 in the PERC H720 series controllers, which are the first Dell controller to support larger than 2TB drives.

The HP P400i doesn't use an LSI RoC, and instead uses a good ol 440 PowerPC Proc, which is comparable to any controller running the LSI SAS 1078 RoC. The P400i should be able to support 3TB drives with a firmware flash...

From HP Support Document:
-HP Smart Array Controller Firmware Version 5.06 is the minimum firmware version required to support 3TB or larger HP SAS/SATA hard drives attached to an HP Smart Array P212, P410/P410i, P411, or P812 Controller.
-HP Smart Array Controller Firmware Version 5.32 is the minimum firmware version required to support 3TB or larger HP SAS/SATA hard drives attached to an HP Smart Array P711m or P712m Controller.

The fact that this says "...to support 3TB or larger HP SAS/SATA hard drives..." makes me wonder if this will work with any drive or not.
post #9 of 65
I didn't realize there was a difference between the P400 and the P400i. Good to know they can support larger drives. I wonder if it has to be in a HP system to flash it or if it can be done from any MB.
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post #10 of 65
There is no difference in the P400 and the P400i other than the P400i comes "integrated" in to the system like in a blade series server.

If the system recognizes the card then you should be able to flash it from that system.
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