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DL360 G5’s, P400’s and ‘why can’t it see that drive?’….

April 16, 2013

First off, I’m not HP-trained in any manner or sense. Everything I know about HP servers I have learnt from personal experience and the desire to learn, with a whole cracking chunk of Google thrown in. Anything I don’t know, and stumble past is not due to any short-coming in any manufacturers training syllabus.

My first foray into the big world of enterprise kit was a big old beige P4000r, I’m going back that far. I bought it for £50 off a friend , it seemed cheap and I was vastly underpaid in a support role, but keen nonetheless. I followed that with another of similar but higher spec vintage, and was soon a proud member of the Pentium Pro fraternity. I learnt a lot from those early boxes, including stripping them and learning how parts went together, how SCSi worked and was connected, all sorts. Since then, I’ve chucked all sorts around, my mainstay over the last few years being DLxxx G5’s, through G7’s and up to the Gen8 I now have at home.

Imagine my annoyance last night then when I couldn’t get ANY of my DL360 G5’s to recognise a correct number of drives. I tried various combinations in various slots, including trying  all 6 slots, then narrowing it down to the original 4. They were powering up every time without issue, but would the ACU see them? No. ACU via Smartstart and via the boot route, still nothing. I could choose one or two, but I wanted 2x 36GB’s for the OS, mirrored of course, and 2x 72GB’s for a second partition. This was to be a physical SQL server to run from, and this was a great chance to use one of the DL360’s for a sensible purpose. Having got very miffed with the whole affair, and storming off to bed (not a great way to catch some sleep), I started to ponder again this morning, this time without rage.

The end result of this is :

Don’t try to perform anything that requires thought when you’re a) wound up about the day’s events, and b) just plain tired. You’ll miss the ridiculously easy stuff.

The disks I was using were likely part of previous arrays that I hadn’t broken up properly. Asking one of the HP hardware guys made me feel like a real pillock when he asked if I’d peformed an Erase via Smartstart on the disks. No. I’d looked at the option and seen right past it. I’ll be doing this tonight, and this will sort the issue, I’ve little doubt. The pointer to this should have been different indicator colours on the drives, some orange and some blue on boot. I believe I’m right in saying that some sort of metadata is written to the disk on configuring an array, and the reason why I could try another 360 with the same set of disks, and get array errors. There should have been nothing on there.

The P400 Array controllers in DL360 G5’s don’t enable the top two drive bays automatically. There will be a server P/N that includes this part but many don’t. It’s a mini SAS cable that is optional for the P400 and P400i cards that connects to the SAS backplane for drives 5 and 6, the upper, far left-hand side bays. Without this cable, those bays will power up but likely not be seen in the ACU. Conversely, as a trouble-shooting exercise, if you can’t see bays 1-4, the other default cable might have an issue. One cable and you will likely have four bays to play with, only with two cables will you have the full six. The P/N for those interested is 399546-B21, I’m going to scavenge one out another box tonight, a glance on ebay shows I could buy this small and light item form the USA for just over £100 P&P. Excellent.

The working while tired rule is a biggie. I’ve done 24 hour shifts several times, unfortunately the nature of our beast is that a lot of our work is done when sensible 9-5ers are at home tucked up in bed, so that when the 9-5ers arrive back in work the next day, we’ve completed planned work, and then fixed all the issues that have arisen unexpectedly due to the work performed, and no-one is any the wiser. Datacentres are lonely places at 2am, fact. Grabbing half an hours sleep on a DC floor while something formats, or some support wallah on the other side of the planet gets around to checking something , is fairly common. If you’re due to do some overnight work, or otherwise extended hours, plan for it and get some extra sleep the night before. Big mistakes are possible when you’re performing delicate work while trying to keep your eyes open, and funnily enough, those are the times you’re pretty much on your own.



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