erich1527
Contributor
Contributor

ESXi 5.5 and RAID

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Good afternoon,

I recently purchased a Cooler Master case and to build a home virtual server. The specs are:

     CPU: Intel Core i7 3770K @ 3.50GHz

     Mobo: ASUSTeK COMPUTER INC. P8Z77-V (LGA1155)

     HDDs: 3 2TB

I chose to install the latest version of ESXi (5.5). The first issue I had was the NIC not being recognized. I was able to correct this issue by injecting a e1000 driver into the ISO using ESXi-Customizer.

The next issue I have run into is that the software RAID I built off of my Asus motherboard is not being recognized by ESXi's installer. In BIOS, I have:

     BIOS Version 2104

     Intel Virtualization Technology - Enabled

     SATA Mode - RAID

     3.6TB RAID5 (Status: HEALTHY)

I spoke with Asus this morning and they told me everything looked fine on their end. However, they told me they do not specifically support any VMware products. He suggested I find an Async driver to add to the ISO. I can not find this and have found conflicting reports of whether or not this configuration is even supported.

In short, can my P8Z77-V's RAID array be seen by ESXi 5.5 and if so, how?

Thanks,

Eric

1 Solution

Accepted Solutions
gregsn
Enthusiast
Enthusiast

Software RAID controllers are not supported by ESXi.  If you plan on running an onboard RAID system, you'll need to install a hardware RAID controller.  Either Adaptec or LSI brands would be a good place to start.

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18 Replies
gregsn
Enthusiast
Enthusiast

Software RAID controllers are not supported by ESXi.  If you plan on running an onboard RAID system, you'll need to install a hardware RAID controller.  Either Adaptec or LSI brands would be a good place to start.

View solution in original post

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mpogr
Enthusiast
Enthusiast

It is extremely annoying that in ESXi 5.5 VMWare dropped support of even booting off so-called "software RAID" controllers. I just tried upgrading one of my hosts from 5.1 to 5.5. This host has a pair of 60GB SSDs in RAID-1 on mobo built-in Marvell controller used for ESXi booting, scratch and local cache, and was working beautifully under 5.1. The upgrade process went fine and I was able to boot into 5.5, but then the host lost configuration persistency because it couldn't see the drive it's booted off! And the next reboot brought me back into 5.1!

Why have they done that? Any sensible reason?

Josh26
Virtuoso
Virtuoso

Fake RAID devices were never supported. This was with good reason - their use in cheap servers account for a large proportion of failures. It's much like Apple not supporting Flash on iPads - it may cost them business but at the end of the day they wanted a stable product.

If you ever got these working on ESXi 5.1, it was a fluke.

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mpogr
Enthusiast
Enthusiast

Excuse me, but I would like to draw a line here between RAID0/1/10 and any other kind of RAID. The former don't require any excessive calculations and I see absolutely no problem of them being handled by a simple on board controller. Also, these drives are presented to the OS as standard AHCI drives, so OS doesn't even need a special driver to handle them. It looks like VMWare, in ESXi 5.5, began to DELIBERATELY exclude those drives from storage scans, which is something I completely don't understand. Are they being paid by LSI/Adaptec etc. to boost their controller sales?

Hi,

     first issue might be caused because of the your motherboard issue, because since you having CPU: Intel Core i7 3770K @ 3.50GHz , this mother board only support this CPU, when u update the BIOS version to 0312.  I'm sure the first issue caused because of the BIOS version why I'm saying because I had the same issue with P9X79 and i updated to recommended version

see the link for your CPU supported version from asus

http://support.asus.com/cpusupport/list.aspx?SLanguage=en&p=1&s=39&m=P8Z77-V%20LX&os=&hashedid=wUVRE...

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JarryG
Expert
Expert

"...It looks like VMWare, in ESXi 5.5, began to DELIBERATELY exclude those drives from storage scans..."

AFAIK, bios-raid (aka "fake-raid", "software-raid", etc.) was NEVER suppported by ESXi so please stop looking for some VMware<->LSI/Adaptec conspiracy...

_____________________________________________ If you found my answer useful please do *not* mark it as "correct" or "helpful". It is hard to pretend being noob with all those points! 😉
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erich1527
Contributor
Contributor

I've been looking at LSI and Adaptec RAID cards... Any model recommendations for a home server?

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gregsn
Enthusiast
Enthusiast

I've had relatively good success with the 5, 6 and 7 series Adaptec controllers.  If you don't need cutting-edge performance, you could pick yourself up an Adaptec 5805 with a battery backup module (or a 5805Z if you can get one for cheap. it uses flash instead of a battery) from eBay for about $250 .  That'll get you 8 ports with reasonably good performance. One issue I've had with the Adaptec controllers is they sometimes hang if you have VT-d enabled on the motherboard.  Just make sure you can disable VT-d on your motherboard before using an Adaptec controller (maybe this issue has been fixed now, but I disable VT-d just to be on the safe side).

For LSI, any of the 92xx series controllers should work, but I recommend getting one that has a battery backup module / flash module to protect the write cache memory.  Otherwise your write speed will be horrible if you don't enable write caching.

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mpogr
Enthusiast
Enthusiast

IBM M1015 can typically be found on eBay for 110-140 USD new (with cables!). This card is essentially a rebranded LSI 9240-8i with stripped RAID-5/6 support (but with RAID-0/1/10). It doesn't have any onboard RAM cache and/or battery backup. An additional advantage is it can be flashed with LSI 9211-8i IT firmware, effectively making it a very efficient SAS/SATA HBA, which is extremely popular with home Opensolaris (ZFS) based NAS builders.

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JarryG
Expert
Expert

I have been using various Adaptec and LSI-controllers. From my own experience, LSI-controllers boots much-much faster. With Adaptec raid-controllers I had to wait sometimes even a few minutes :smileyalert: till all drives/arrays were detected. For LSI this very same task (the same raid-arrays configuration) takes just a few seconds. Now I'm using exclusively IBM M5015 which I cross-flash to LSI-9260. M5015 is cheaper, and yet comes already equipped with BBU (compared to 9260, M5015 is missing raid6, but I do not use it).

One more thing: be carefull which controller you pick! Do NOT rely on "VMware hardware compatibility guide" (as I did), verify it on raid-controller manufacturer website. One "great" thing I discovered is that "supported" controller does not mean "fully supported". I found some older adaptec (not sure which type, but listed by VMware as supported). So I mounted it in my home-server, set-up raid-arrays, installed ESXi (arrays detected without any problem). So far so good.

Surprise came when I wanted to monitor health of raid-arrays. Guess what? Healt-monitoring NOT supported! That's reply I got from Adaptec (with advice "buy one of our new controllers"). I ask myself: what is such a raid-controller good for, if there is no way to monitor it? And yet it is still listed as supported...

_____________________________________________ If you found my answer useful please do *not* mark it as "correct" or "helpful". It is hard to pretend being noob with all those points! 😉
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erich1527
Contributor
Contributor

Gregsn,

I ordered an Adaptec 5805Z off eBay today for $250. Here is hoping that solves my issue!

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GelemonOne
Contributor
Contributor

There's a zero cost reliable software raid solution. I did it once. Still running with no problem about 3 years

Performance is great for a zero cost solution.

Change SATA to AHCI mode from BIOS

install a virtual CentOS on a disk that is NOT one of the disks that will do raid

use raw device mapping and create disk files.

Add these disks to CentOS

create software raid with CentOS using mdadm

install iscsi on CentOS to share this raid disk (/dev/md0)

add it to ESXi itself to use.

PS: Do not forget to add this centos to Automatic Startup of ESXi

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Punisher713
Contributor
Contributor

very interesting alternative. Just to be sure, you installed your CentOS as a VM in ESXi?

Also, what are the supported RAID modes? I'm looking for a Raid5 solution.

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Punisher713
Contributor
Contributor

Erich, did the Adaptec 5805Z end up doing the job?

Thanks.

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Ginsiux
Contributor
Contributor

Could you please tell us more about that alternative? It sounds very interesting. Smiley Happy Maybe you have some links to internet pages with more info about how to do that?

Thanks.

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ViennaAustria
Contributor
Contributor

@mpogr: I totally agree. We administer close to 100 ESX hosts in total and most of them have very advanced storage systems. Nobody there would ever talk about soft-RAID or "toys" like that.

However, for small applications it would be perfect to have a small, cheap but redundant storage solution - meaning soft- or "fake"-RAID.

I avoid installing any kind of server on bare metal. Even on home servers for friends my first step is to install ESXi, then think about the rest. Such small systems either have a single SATA disk with no redundancy - why are SATA disks still supported??? - or some RAID system. The cheapest mirroring RAID controllers start at about 100€/$ plus 25 for fanout cables etc. I would appreciate if the VMware guys themselve add a soft RAID 1 driver/VIB to ESXi for small installations like that. It can not cost any significant anmmount of CPU power to handle a parallel write operation to another drive!

If no other argument counts for VMware, then maybe preventing to loose customers to Microsoft: if I would install HyperV, I can use soft RAID!

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Almaza
Contributor
Contributor

Hi,

I just wanted to add a solution which worked for me and which Mr. Google did not find anywhere when I was looking.

Relevant System Info:

ASRock 990FX Extreme 9

LSI MegaRAID 9240-4i

2 x Kingston 120GB SSD for use as RAID1 system

2 x Western Digital Red 4TB for use as RAID1 storage

VMWare 5.5 U2 Free Version

As so many other people have reported the system were hanging during loading of the VMWare install as long as the MegaRAID card were installed.

Tried a range of BIOS settings based on what I found in various threads including this one

Upgraded the Motherboard and MegaRAID cards to latest firmware

Tried updating the MegaRAID driver in the VMWare Install CD

Tried installing VMWare without the MegaRAID card installed, updated the drivers in all kinds of ways in various threads

Finally I contacted LSI Support....next time I will start with contacting LSI support

Answer from LSI Support:

Downgrading the firmware might work but the better option is
use a hardware raid model like 9260-4i

The 9240-4i and -8i are software raid controllers. The controllers
have to be able to allocate memory during boot up or the driver
will not load.

In the past, engineering did not put in a check for the memory
allocation but recent firmware releases do so updating to the
latest firmware might not work with the motherboard.

Many desktop motherboards do not support Interrupt 15 (memory
allocation).

You can downgrade the firmware to the version below

http://www.lsi.com/downloads/Public/RAID%20Controllers/RAID%20Controllers%20Common%20Files/MERGED_20...

You have to boot into DOS since the driver is not loading in windows
Use MegaCli for DOS

http://www.lsi.com/downloads/Public/RAID%20Controllers/RAID%20Controllers%20Common%20Files/8.07.14_M...

At the dos prompt, run

MegaCli -adpcount

should see a 1 if the controller is detected. To flash the firmware, run

MegaCli -adpfwflash -f imr_fw.rom -noverchk -a0

Note; noverchk means no version check.

Create a USB dos bootable drive if you don't have one.

- I downloaded Rufus-2.0 from https://rufus.akeo.ie/ and created a bootable USB key

- Downloaded and copied MegaCLI and the Firmware as linked to by LSI to the USB key

- Disconnected all harddrives from the controllers and installed the MegaRAID card

- Booted from the USB key and downgraded the firmware as described by LSI

- Shut down the computer when asked and connected all my harddrives to the MegaRAID controller

- Created the RAID's in the boot MegaRAID setup thingy

- Booted VMWare 5.5 U2 standard CD with no extra drivers to install. Now the loading stopped for approximately 5 minutes on the megaraid_sas part before continuing

- Installed VMWare on the System RAID1, after completing install and reboot I now have a working VMWare installation using the LSI MegaRAID 9240-4i card.

Note!

It has been stated it is not possible to use Software RAID in VMWare 5.5, the LSI MegaRAID 9240-4i card is a software raid card.

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JarryG
Expert
Expert

9240 is not software-raid. It has LSI SAS-2008 chip taking care of all that parity-calculation things. But it lacks its own on-board cache so it must take a little of RAM for array-operations during start-up, using its bios. And that's a problem, because ESXi does not want to sacrifice single bit of RAM for raid-controller, disk-caching, etc.

_____________________________________________ If you found my answer useful please do *not* mark it as "correct" or "helpful". It is hard to pretend being noob with all those points! 😉
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