[UCI-Linux] More cautionary tales from RAID-land.

Garr Updegraff garru at uci.edu
Fri May 13 12:47:46 PDT 2005

Hi Harry,

Yow, what an account of RAID wretchedness!  The only advantage of RAID, in 
your case, is that there was an opportunity to copy your data to another 
computer, before it was all destroyed when you installed the new 
drive.  You'd think 3ware would have tested common RAID scenarios like this.

I'm suddenly a lot less confident about my own dual Opteron machines, each 
running Suse 9.1 in 64-bit mode (with a special command for 32-bit 
programs) on a 3ware Escalade 8506-4LP RAID controller with 4 SATA drives 
(the performance running Oracle's new 64-bit 10g version on these computers 
has been spectacular so far, incidentally).  I could hope my RAID 0+1 
configuration will be more forgiving about mounting the file system after a 
drive has been replaced, since the replacement drive is just a mirror of an 
existing drive, whereas replacement in RAID 5 pretty much means that all 
the data has to be re-striped across all the drives.

Anyway, I'll try out that 64-bit web interface program from 3ware that you 
found on their site.  Hope it works -- I've been wondering how to check on 
the status of these RAIDed drives without rebooting.  ;-)

-- Garr

At 12:04 PM 5/13/05, Harry Mangalam wrote:
>5.12.05 - disk failure on sand's RAID5 partition - detected on reboot in
>dmesg, not by log or email as expected.  At this point, the data was still
>intact and SHOULD have been backed up to another system, but since it was HW
>RAID5 AND it was 3ware controller (known for reliability (HA!) and robustness
>(HA!)) AND this was acting as the backup for other systems (which were still
>OK) AND the data was ~200GB at this point, I thought it was ok to go ahead.
>First thing was to find the problem of why we hadn't been informed of the
>failure beforehand.
>The controller ( a 3ware Escalade 86506-8port driving 8x250GB identical WD
>disks) has, like most such cards, a BIOS-based utility for setting up the
>RAID which actually worked pretty well, except that unlike SW RAID, you can't
>use the raid immediately in degraded mode (while it's building the checksum
>info across the raid) - you have to let it sit there for hours (it's a 1.6 TB
>array) while it checksums the entire array (even tho there's nothing on it to
>begin with).  That done, it looks like a giant scsi disk to the OS - so far
>so great.
>3ware also comes with a web-frontend utility called 3dm and a commandline
>utility called tw_cli.  When I had installed the 3dm, I had gone thru the
>installation script, checked that there were no error messages, checked that
>I got an email verification and then forgot about it - altho thinking about
>it - I must have gotten the email from the script, not the app.  I did not
>check that the web server interface was working as I didn't think I'd ever
>use it.  MISTAKE.
>Now I DID need to talk to the controller and the 3dm/tw_cli were the only
>things that could while the OS was running.  THIS is one of the downsides of
>a hardware RAID - you're stuck with the tools that the vendor gives you.
>Since I was running on a 64-bit SMP Linux (Ubuntu), dual opteron, the
>installation bash script ran fine, but the monitoring daemon silently failed
>(32 bit code and I was running a 64-bit-only OS).  So nothing was hearing the
>controller screaming that a disk had died and the RAID was now running in
>degraded mode.  (as noted above, the only thing that let us know this was an
>entry in dmesg on a reboot.)
>After verifying that this software was in fact incompatible with the OS, I
>tried to find an upgrade that WOULD let me talk to the controller.  I figured
>that 3ware being a vendor of high-end hardware, my kind of machine would be
>among their main targets.  And I was right - BUT ... Trying to find the
>software that was compatible with my system was an exercise in frustration -
>3ware's web site is walled off from google's bots (like almost all corporate
>sites) and since 3ware is relatively high end hardware, there are not a lot
>of messages on the linux BBSs about such failures and how to deal with them.
>So after a couple hours of browsing I had to go back to the 3ware site and
>deal with their oh-so cool web design that doesn't show URLs in any way
>different than regular text.  The text only shows up as a hyperlink if you
>mouse over it.  I noticed this and then had to mouse over entire pages of
>text, line by line to search for likely hyperlinks.
>The one that finally took me to the page I needed was buried in a paragraph
>that I almost overlooked.  Turns out the SW does exist, but is NOT specified
>for the controller I have (8506-8) but  the 9000-series controller (which is
>noted in the fine print as being backwards compatible with the 8000-series).
>ALso, it's not 'released SW' , it's being 'In Engineering Phase'.  To make a
>long story shorter, I ended up downloading and trying several versions of
>software until I finally stumbled over the right software - the 64bit
>versions of the 3dm2 and cli for the 9000-series controllers.  This installed
>ok and apparently ran.  The web interface software however, while it started
>up and presented an optimistic login screen, gave no indication of what the
>passwords should be or where to go to set them.  After looking in the config
>file (/etc/3dm2/3dm2.conf) only to find encrypted passwords, I then wandered
>around the 3ware web site trying to find documentation about how to set or
>even find out what the initial passwords were. There were no docs or help
>files or README's with teh software (it's '3ware' for those of you going thru
>the same hell; you can change them via the web interface when you finally get
>Re the passwords - nothing - or at least nothing I could find in about an
>hour's searching.  I finally decided to look in the installation script -
>bingo.  The passwords are set and encrypted into the config file from there.
>SO after setting them to what I wanted, FINALLY I was able to log into the
>web interface and talk to the controller. And in fact after being able to log
>in, the help file DOES tell you what what the password is and how to change
>Actually the tw_cli app also works, but it's pretty ugly (altho give them
>credit - they DID make 2 linux-specific clients).  The one that I needed was
>the 3ware 9000 series 3DM2 Linux64-bit one - helpfully, on the web page I
>eventually found: (http://3ware.com/support/downloadpageeng.asp?SNO=4), both
>the 32 bit and 64 bit one are named the SAME THING.
>So here I am, talking to the 3ware controller via the web interface and while
>it's not fantastic, it's really not bad.  And one disk has been marked bad.
>So now I have to replace the bad disk.  I'm just about to bring the system
>down to do this, when I realize the disks are sitting in the expensive
>hotswap cages we bought for this specific purpose, so (after unmounting the
>filesystem) I take a deep breath, and pop the offending disk. ... ... nothing
>happens - the system doesn't freeze or explode or anything - it looks like it
>has actually worked - and the 3dm2 interface shows that the bad disk is now
>gone.  GREAT!  I quickly replace the disk with a spare and slam it back in
>again - and there it is on the web interface.  Now isolated all by itself.
>  Now - how to go about adding it back to the RAID?  The Web interface is 
> a bit
>dodgy on how to go about adding this disk back into the array. And the help
>pages are not particularly helpful; the Maintenance help page sort of
>obliquely refers to this scenario, but certainly doesn't give any specific
>step-by step instructions.  You'd have thought that since one of the primary
>reasons for buying such a $$$ controller is to be able to replace a RAID5
>disk on the fly, they might have a specific  mention of such an 
>The way I did it is to add the disk to a new 'UNIT' and then add that UNIT to
>the previously defined RAID5 UNIT and request that the new combined unit be
>rebuilt.  That seemed to work and the controller went about integrating the
>new disk into the raid 5 array.  Again, it was not possible to mount the
>array and use it while it was being integrated, like you can do with SW RAID
>under linux.  This took several hours, and in the end, it FAILED.  That was
>the just about the last &^%@$@(^$& straw.  After spending $ and time (=$) on
>this escapade (that's what the Escalade series SHOULD be named), the
>*&^&^%!#! thing fails to rebuild the array.  (But at least it now reports via
>email that it has failed.) So now what???
>The filesystem was a reiserfs to begin with.  As a last resort, I try to
>rescue the thing with a fsck.reiserfs.  After reading the dire warning about
>this being the last thing you should try, I give it the --rebuild-tree option
>and go home.  This being 2TB of disk, it takes a while.  Later that night I
>see it's completed and try to mount it.  To my astonishment it mounts.  I do
>a 'df' - hmm - that's not good - only 3% of disk used.  There was 11% when I
>started (the raid had only been running a short while). I'm not at all happy
>to see that it the only directory on the partition is ... lost+found.  This
>dir contains the rubble of what used to be about 200GB of expensive and
>carefully groomed earth-sensing and atmospheric data. %$^%$^$^%$^!^&$!^%
>So go ahead - ask me - Am I happy that I spent the extra $ to buy a hardware
>raid card rather than two $30 4port sata controllers and using SW RAID?
>I probably couldn't have done all this disk hot-swapping with a non-HW RAID
>card, but the cost of a reboot for most of us is not that big a deal.  That
>said, I'm not sure of the total complexity that doing such a thing under SW
>RAID would have entailed. To do this with 2x 4 port controllers would have
>required additional complexity and I'm not sure it can be done easily with
>mdadm.  And it is possible that I did something wrong in the 3ware rebuild -
>I'll be sending this narrative back to them as well.
>As a postscript to this, I should also mention that while most Linux server
>vendors sell 3ware cards, at least one (Los Alamos Computers) suggests SW
>raid as being both significantly cheaper and faster.  They suggest the
>Promise SATA TX4 for about $70.  Newegg has the supported-in-kernel Silicon
>Image chipsetted Syba 4 port card for $30. If you remember my previous posts,
>I was surprised to find SW RAID to be a bit (10-20%) faster.  I now think
>that I probably should have tried the SW RAID on a full 2TB array.
>Well, you makes your choices and you takes your chances.
>Hope this helps.

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