Here’s a quick overview of installing the IBM ServerRaid M1015 HBA (aka LSI SAS9220-8i) in the HP Gen8 Microserver.
These cards can be bought for around $100 on eBay. The HBA has two 6Gbps SAS ports (each port has 4 lanes, each lane is 6Gbps giving a theoretical maximum of 24Gbps per port and 48Gbps if using both ports). A typical configuration for maximum performance is one lane to each drive using an SFF-8087 breakout cable. With two of these cables this card is capable of running 8 drives. You can run more drives with a SAS expander but I haven’t had a need to yet. I typically flash it into IT (JBOD) mode. This is a popular card for running ZFS, which is my use-case.
The picture above shows the original location of the 4-drive bay SAS connector, you just need to move it to the HBA, I didn’t have to re-wire it, there is plenty of slack in the cable so I just had to pull it to the M1015 and plug it in (below).
At first boot all my drives were recognized and VMWare and all the guests booted up as normal.
Also, a few people have asked about mounting an extra drive in the ODD bay, here’s the power connection I think could be tapped into with a Y-splitter (below).
Does this have an advantage over the Gen8 Microserver’s B20i SmartArray controller? For a lot of setups it probably offers no advantage. I probably wouldn’t do it in my environment except I already have a couple of M1015’s lying around. Here’s what you get with the M1015.
- In IT mode drives are hot-swappable. No need to power-down to swap out a bad drive.
- B20i only has 2 6Gbps ports, the other two are 3Gbps. The M1015 can run up to 8 lanes (10 if you use the first two lanes from the B20i) in 6Gbps. If you’re using the server as a NAS you’re more limited by the two single Gbps NICs so this shouldn’t be an issue for most setups.
- The M1015 is known to work with 4TB drives, the Microserver only supports up to 3TB.
- VMWare can be booted off a USB, but it needs at least one SATA drive to store the first VM’s configuration, so whatever SATA controller that drive is on can’t be used as a pass-through device. So if you want to pass an HBA directly to a VM (which is a typical for Napp-it All-in-One setups) you can pass the entire M1015 controller to a VM which gives it direct hardware access to the drives (requires a CPU with VT-d).