On Dell's PERC 5/i
So in a previous post,
I railed about my surprise at finding out that the Dell PERC 5/i
controller has no audible alarm and why that's a concern for me. Well,
here we are, nearly two weeks later, and after much going round and
round with Dell on the issue, I have more information, and it's not
My specific initial issue is that, besides not
having an audible alarm, Dell's Server Management software (Open
Manage) doesn't have a way to send notifications about problems with
the RAID controller, either the controller itself or the failure of an
element attached to the controller. After my initial support call with
Dell about the issue, they indicated that the IT Assistant software
should run on the Windows 64-bit box, and that will send notifications
when an issue is detected. I've since found out that no, the latest
version of IT Assistant that's posted on the Dell web site will NOT, in
fact, run on the 64-bit Windows platform. Of course, everything about
IT Assistant tells you that it really, truly, should be run on another
box, but for this specific instance, that's not going to be possible.
digging further into this, however, I've uncovered a couple of other
issues that concern me. Given that IT Assistant seems to be the
preferred way to actively monitor the RAID, I thought I'd try to
install it on the SBS box I have at the office. No dice. IT Assistant will
install onto a server platform, but not SBS. It's a hard block. So for
all my SBS servers with PERC 5/i cards, I have nothing from Dell that I
can run on the server box that will monitor the helath
of the RAID controller and notify me when there's a problem. With my
other RAID controllers, I can fall back on the audio alert at the very
least for notification of a problem, but don't have that option here.
Thursday, at my SBS user group meeting, I mentioned my frustrations
with the situation in a side conversation, and one of the folks I was
talking with was as taken aback as I was when I first figured this out.
He just put a number of servers with PERC 5/i cards in them out in
production and was also unaware that the controller had no audible
alarm mechanism. I've mentioned this to a couple of other folks as
well, with pretty much the same reaction.
This week, I started
putting together specs for a couple of new servers for a couple of
projects and, knowing the challenges of the PERC 5/i, decided to look
at other controller options for these boxes. Unfortunately, I've found
that, currently, the only RAID controller that Dell provides that
supports RAID 5 is, surprise surprise, the PERC 5/i. There are other
controllers, but those only support RAID 0 or 1. And I don't yet have
confirmation if those controllers have audible alarms on them or not.
So, even if I was able to "settle for" a RAID 1 solution (and to be
fair, on one box it's not unrealistic), I still think I'd be in the
I've been working with a couple of folks at Dell
on trying to find a reasonable resolution to this problem. Of course,
there's always the recommendation that I can run IT Assistant on a
separate workstation to monitor the array card in the server and send
notifications back to me if/when there's a problem. But that's not
necessarily a realistic solution at some sites. Now I have to install a
piece of software on a workstation that has to be running all the time
and may or may not interfere with what the user of the workstation is
trying to do. I simply can't afford to stick a dedicated box at each of
my client sites to do this monitoring, nor can I ask them to dedicate a
workstation to do this themselves. It looks like I'm going to have to
go third party for a solution, and while that's probably less costly
than doing a dedicated workstation to monitor the array, it's still an
added expense that I really don't think I should have to incur in order
to be proactive with my clients.
I honestly believe the folks
I've spoken with at Dell understand my plight. While they have not
committed to anything, there have been discussions about changes to
engineering on future controllers to ensure an audible alarm among
other possibilities. Based on a series of messages that floated around
this afternoon, I know the issue has been escalated internally, but
still have no clear direction on where to go.
At the end of the
day, two weeks after I first placed the call regarding the failed array
and lack of notification of the failure, I still have a box that I will
have to manually monitor for RAID health. I'm hoping for a better
solution, and I expect that I'll just have to be patient.
I sure hope that data cable doesn't pop off the drive connector again, tho...