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Dell perc 6i, the $120 Raid 6 solution (up to 32 devices). HOWTO

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
I had almost 6 TB of unprotected data on ageing 1Tb drives.
I decided I wanted to protect my data and converted an old machine
into a server.

Why a raid card? Motherboard based raid is not true raid, it is bios
based and the error correction is poor. Dedicated pro cards have
all the memory, correction and cpu rolled into one nice package.

The card: Dell perc 6i

The Dell perc 6i is a card made by LSI for dell, it is a volume
solution used in many servers. so many servers in fact, that it
is stupidly cheap on the used market. We will exploit that savings
fully.

This card is by far the most affordable raid 6 card.
The same card from LSI (maker of 6i for dell) is appx $650.
Add in that you can use LSI's excellent software and it's a deal.
The icing on the cake is that the card works on "consumer" OS like
windows 7.

It is important to get the battery backup with this card (BBU)
More on it later.

Remember to order two SAS to SATA cables off ebay, and make sure you get the
32 pin and not the mini SAS cable.

The Raid level:


Why raid 6? Why not raid 5?

Raid 5 has one drive failure allowed. The problem is on rebuild,
the rebuild can fail leading to 100% data loss.
Raid 6 has two drives for parity, you can lose two drives on raid 6
and still rebuild.

What are the Cons? Cost.

You need two drives for parity, for two 2TB drives this is appx $160 as of today.

Size yield is poor until you add past the 4th drive

Using 2TB drives, 4 drives yields only 4TB (really less, as 4tb is bytes -> kb)

However, after 4 drives the size of the array grows the full capacity of each added drive. the "hump" is the two drive

sacrifice to safety.

Raid 6 can add more drives at a later date. It takes forever to do (48-72 hours)
but it can be done. When 2tb drives are $50, add in three more to hit 10TB of
rock solid storage.


My build:

Hardware: Any system with a free 8x or 16x pcie slot.

I used a GA-965P-DS3 with e4300 and 2tb DDR2-667
For your psu needs, calculate your power needs.
Primary drive (os) is 2x250gb sata wd I had around, in raid 0 (mirror)
using the onboard raid.
Os: Windows 7 64bit

Note about motherboards: Some boards will drop the second 16x slot to 8x or 2x
if there is a pci-e card in an adjacent slot.
Example: The second 16x slot has three 1x/2x slots around it.
Anything in those slots will drop the 16x slot down to 8x or worse, so
double check.

To overcome this, I used the "graphics slot" which is just a 16x pci-e slot.
Because of this, I used a basic low power pci video card. (Ati rage appx 3-5watts)


The Perc 6i:

The Perc 6i can come on a metal board. This is the cheapest one to get.
It is a normal pci-e card on a metal mount. Remove it from the plate.
This setup has has no bracket. Using zip ties or scythe ninja wire, you can hold it steady.
Inside the case easily. Some people sell home made brackets for $8.

Conflict with intel chipsets:

You may need to cover pins 5/6 on the heat sink side on the
6i. It's easy to find out if you need to do this, the system will hang on boot.
Some properly cut electrical tape will do the trick.

The install process:

Put in the raid drives, and connect them to the perc 6i.
Mount and connect the BBU unit.

The BBu unit protects against data loss in power outage.
If you have a power outage and are copying something to the drive,
you will lose the data in memory being written to the array.
This is the sector x drives. So 64kb x 8 drives appx. Not good.
The BBU allows you to power on, and it will finish writing to the drives
what is in memory.

The card will give a warning halt about there being a different array,
and will go to bios screen or prompt you to do so.

Follow this tutorial with this configuration.
1. Select raid 6
2. Tab to the drives and add them using space bar.
a.Adding each drive will show the final capacity of the volume on the right.
b.You will notice adding the first two drives adds no size as they are the parity.
3. Go to advanced and select 64kb for default. Setting it larger
has no benefit unless you are doing video streaming commercially (512kb)
4. Tab to advance and edit the options as so:
Select read ahead only if you have a BBU.
I selected adaptive read ahead, it enables it in sustained reads.
Write policy you set depending on if you have a BBU. I used
write through as write back can lose that data if there is
no BBU or a BBU failure in a blackout.
5. Select initialize.
6. Select OK

Initializing can take up to 12 hours or more. 6 x 2TB drives took appx 8 hours.

When the virtual disc (the array) is complete, you can exit and reboot.
Before you exit, make sure the bios enabled tab is checked.Reboot.

On EFI motherboards, you can install the OS to the new volume if you want to.
On older hardware with the 2tb limit, the array will have to be a second non boot drive.

Enter your bios and make sure the motherboard has not changed your boot options.

Exit the bios, watch the card load and initialize.

When you boot to windows, the card will be installed.
The default, up to date dell perc 6i drivers in windows 7 are fine.

Go to disk management, and initialize the disc using GPT to show
the array as one drive. It's pretty fun to see one drive with 10TB capacity.

The initialization on the raid card makes the long format unneccesary,
so I picked quick format.

Download the LSI software and install it. It will install java as part of the package.
This great software can be accessed remotely, removing the need to have the server
in the same room.
http://www.lsi.com/storage_home/products_home/internal_raid/megaraid_sas/megaraid_sas_8888elp/index.html

All done (for the most part).

Encryption:

If you do encrypt, use truecrypt. Encrypting a huge volume can add another 12-14 hours
to the 8-12 hour initialize time!

Note on the 6i 32 device capability.
Using an SAS expander box you can have 32 drives in your array.
Example: Four 2tb drives in JBOD on each of the 8 sata lines.
That would be 8TB per line, or 48TB maximum capoacity using 2tb drives!

Note on expanding capacity: Adding another drive has the same risks as rebuilding.
If you do it, back up your data somwhere then make a fresh array or if you are
curious add more drive(s) and follow the resize steps.
It is possible to resize while using the array but it will be degraded and take longer.

Summary:

The perc 6i is a great affordable raid 6 solution for people with some tech
ability and patience. I was able to build a six drive raid 6 array for the price
of an off the shelf raid 6 card (without any drives!).

5489039777_3b9cd6cb63_m.jpg
IMG_0040 by ASSEMblerEX, on Flickr

5489638262_ebe8e50651_m.jpg
IMG_0044 by ASSEMblerEX, on Flickr

5489639246_697a651a10_m.jpg
IMG_0048 by ASSEMblerEX, on Flickr

5489638694_4b4563b57b_m.jpg
IMG_0046 by ASSEMblerEX, on Flickr

5489640254_7be00a3b4c_m.jpg
IMG_0052 by ASSEMblerEX, on Flickr

5489639778_b4f805a364.jpg
IMG_0051 by ASSEMblerEX, on Flickr
Edited by ASSEMbler - 3/1/11 at 11:38am
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post #2 of 11
How do you get the 6/i to see more than 8 physical drives? Everything I've read says that only the 6/e will see more than 8 drives, no matter what Dell's sales material says.
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post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 
You need an sas expander
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post #4 of 11
No expander I've seen or used actually workswith the internal PERCs though. They will still only address 8 drives. The external drive versions work ok though.
post #5 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by the_beast;12592961 
No expander I've seen or used actually workswith the internal PERCs though. They will still only address 8 drives. The external drive versions work ok though.

Yeah, I thought this thread was showing a way to do that. frown.gif
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post #6 of 11
Look at this post. Looks like the chenbro one works:

http://www.delltechcenter.com/thread/4417532/Dell%2BPERC%2B6/?offset=10&maxResults=10

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post #7 of 11
Hmm if Chenbro have worked out the issues with their expander (they even discontinued it - I would assume the 'rev B' mentioned is it being re-released), then it might become an option with the 6/i.

Not sure why/how the 6/i will work with the Chenbro but not with the HP Expander, even though the 6/e works with HP's device, especially as they share a firmware. But sometimes strange things happen...
post #8 of 11
I'm about to order the perc 6i w/bbu from xbyte.com ($149) but I have some questions:

In the case where the perc 6i fails or dies, would I've lost all my data if I replaced it with the same one and reconfigured all the arrays the same as it was? I'm being told by xbyte.com that I would lose everything.

They also said I'd lose all my data if I've lost power and the battery didn't hold data long enough before power was restored. So, if my pc was shutdown and unplugged for longer than the battery holds charge I'd lose my data? That doesn't make sense. I have a pc with onboard raid and I could have it powered off (and unplugged from the wall) for a week and all the arrays would still be there when I powered it back on.
post #9 of 11
I wanted to PM ASSEMBler and I don't see an option to do so.

Assember: Just wanted to tell you that I'm about to do what you did. Your post is very informative on the card and I'm also using Win'7 x64..but I'm using an asus mobo (P5E-VM HDMI) which has onboard raid that I currently use.

I'm wondering if I can expect any compatibility issues since it has an intel raid controller ICH9R I believe. I plan to install the card in the only PCI-E x16 slot I have which I used for my graphics card before.
post #10 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by yorkman;13008687 
I'm about to order the perc 6i w/bbu from xbyte.com ($149) but I have some questions:

In the case where the perc 6i fails or dies, would I've lost all my data if I replaced it with the same one and reconfigured all the arrays the same as it was? I'm being told by xbyte.com that I would lose everything.

They also said I'd lose all my data if I've lost power and the battery didn't hold data long enough before power was restored. So, if my pc was shutdown and unplugged for longer than the battery holds charge I'd lose my data? That doesn't make sense. I have a pc with onboard raid and I could have it powered off (and unplugged from the wall) for a week and all the arrays would still be there when I powered it back on.

Nope. Array config is on the drives. It will show up as a foreign array when your new card comes in. If you replace with the same brand (LSI Based) of same or newer caliber it should work. I moved from a LSI 8308ELP to a Dell Perc6/i (LSI Based) and config came along for the ride on the drives. Just don't initialize or it will setup the drives as a new blank array (wipe your drives).
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