Home Hardware Server Components Adding External Storage to the IBM eServer 325
Adding External Storage to the IBM eServer 325 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Tim Wray   
Monday, 22 August 2011 16:18

I have been part of a project as of late that involves adding a large amount of storage to an older 1U rackmount server. The server is an IBM e325, which I believe was manufactured for IBM by Lenovo. Not a terrible old machine, still plenty useful in 2011. Picked it up from the guys up at Systime.com. They have great used and off-lease IT gear.

The server was already setup for it's current use, including software with per unit licensing, on the RAID1 array across the two 73.4 GB Ultra320 SCSI hard drives that are in the built in storage enclosure.

In the original scope of this project, which was to implement this server as an SQL database for a fairly small data collection setup (as far as the size the database would grow), the small array would have been just fine. At one point in the implementation, a change was requested to store some imagery from the production system utilizing the database, and to have the photos stored on the database server.

Since it would have been a pain to move all that software and reinstall the server from scratch on larger drives, my IT partner in crime, Matt Abel (www.abel-tech.net) and I decided to look into other heavy-duty storage options.

He found a great solution for me in some hardware available from PC-Pitstop. They have a 1U rackmount SATA/SAS Enclosure that includes rack rails and trays for standard SATA or SAS hard drives. It requires a cable with an SFF-8088 Mini-SAS connector for connection to a controller card on your server. You just fill it with your desired hard drives and power it up.

(Drive enclosure is in 1U slot 8, just above the IBM eServer 325)

I chose Western Digital Caviar Black WD1002FAEX 7200RPM 1TB hard drives with 64MB of cache, and SATA 6.0GB/s connectivity. No complaints so far out of this setup. I bought 4, to fill the enclosure and for redundancy.

One of the tricky things about this was the fact that the IBM e325 has no external connetivity (that I could figure out) for external heavy-duty, high-speed storage.

Once we started looking at SAS drive controllers, we discovered that the majority of them were for PCI Express, and very few were for anything else. Unfortunately, the e325 only has PCI-X, which is a 64-bit version of the original PCI bus standard. It can utilize original 32-bit PCI cards and less common PCI-X cards.

We finally went, once again, to PC-Pitstop on our shopping spree and added an LSI 8-port PCI-X controller (SAS3442X-R, see part numbers at end of article) and a 1 meter external SAS 4X to MiniSAS 26 cable to complete the connection between the e325 and the 1U drive enclosure.

Once all the parts arrived and were assembled in the rack, the card was installed in the e325, and we connected the cable.

(1 meter external SAS 4X to MiniSAS 26 cable as installed)

On boot, the e325 would not boot or initialize the original, onboard LSI controller. It didn't take much fooling around with it to realize that we had to set the LSI MPT controller BIOS (this is on the controller built into the e325, not the one for the new card) Negotiate with devices setting to "All" instead of "Supported", and everything began working perfectly from there on out.

(Once your LSI MPT BIOS is set as shown, boot should be normal.)

At this point, I was then able to enter the BIOS for the new controller card with no problems and added each of my 1TB hard drives into the array. From then on, the unit booted into Windows Server 2003 and I was able to add and format my partition.

So far the whole setup is working very reliably, and I highly reccomend it.