Solaris X86 Compatible RAID Controller

Every time I have to spec a solution using Solaris, I always have to answer a bunch of questions in meetings about why Sun is so costly compared to Dell servers. Usually the reason for the higher price is not the servers (especially with X86 sun), but rather the storage. Since Sun does not offer a system with a RAID card, you always have to purchase a high-end disk enclosure that is capable of performing the RAID functions unless you want the performance degradation that comes with software RAID.

The good news is that there is finally a really nice PCI RAID card that works with Solaris! The bad news is that it only works with X86 Solaris, and Sun only goes so far as to say that it is”reported to work“.

Anyhow, no matter. Here is the deal:

According to Sun Big Admin, the Mylex Accelaraid 150 is reported to work with Solaris 9 04/04 to Solaris 10 03/05 (read Solaris 9 and 10 X86). The firmware and bios on the card needs to be: BIOS Version 4.10-50; Firmware 4.08-37.

Pity that there still does not seem to be a RAID controller that works with SPARC hardware. If someone would come up with that, it would make my life as a Solaris administrator a whole lot easier.

5 thoughts on “Solaris X86 Compatible RAID Controller

  1. I enjoyed look through your site. If you still need a RAID controller for Solaris 10 you might want to checkout Areca [Sun]. Tom’s hardware and Anandtech have some reviews of the cards, they seem nice. It is SATA, not sure if you wanted SCSI instead…

    Best wishes,

  2. What performance degradation? Do you have scientific evidence (repeatable benchmark tests) that show SATA RAID offers any performance gain over software RAID? I have not been able to find any. When I look into this, I am told this is because SATA “RAID” (the common, inexpensive kind that comes integrated on many mainboards, like nforce and via) relies upon the cpu to do all the work, just like software RAID. So, unless someone is dual-booting a machine with another operating system that cannot perform software RAID (i.e., Windows), there is no reason to use SATA RAID with any unix-like operating system.

  3. BoneKracker,

    The writer of this article made a distinction between “Hardware” RAID and “Software” Raid. He didn’t talk about SATA Raid.

    Here are some definitions to help …

    SATA RAID – Is RAID using SATA disks
    SCSI RAID – Is RAID using SCSI disks

    “Hardware” RAID – Is RAID using a RAID Hardware controller, usually Adaptec or LSI.

    “Software” RAID – Is RAID that doesn’t use a RAID Hardware controller but rather an HBA (Like a SCSI Host Bus adapter). A good example is like an (Adaptec or LSI) and just detect a bunch of drives (JBOD – Just a Bunch Of Drives). Then you use the Volume Manager built into Solaris, or ZFS for those on the bleeding edge and link the drives together for RAID in different ways.

    If you need more of a definition for these terms use Wikipedia to educate yourself.

    For your example talking about “… inexpensive kind that comes on mainboards …”, I would classify that as pseudo “Hardware” RAID, because there is a hardware component but it lacks features like (Battery backed Hardware Cache 64MB up to 1GB or beyond; Multiple Channels; more RAID options like 1+0, 5, 50, Hot-Swap etc).

    Cleary each one has it’s market. For home, sure “inexpensive RAID” is fine, but for a Server, people will pay more for more.

    I hope this helps …


  4. You really should check out ZFS if you have not already (your article is dated 2005 and this comment is 2009). It not only performs just as well as a hardware raid it gives the administrator an amazing amount of flexibility when it comes to administering file systems. If your previous experience with “software raid” was Linux LVM I could see why you might have the opinion that you do. I would put ZFS on par with XLV’s in IRIX’s XFS file systems only much more flexible. If you remember older SGI hardware there were no raid controllers and large LUN’s were handled with XLV’s. Personally I would trust ZFS with my data more than some cheap commodity grade raid controller.

    • Robert,

      Amen brother! I started using ZFS in production about a year ago. It solves pretty much every storage problem I’ve ever had. It’s honestly everything a filesystem and volume management should be.

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