Having spent several hours today, there is not a lot of choices for supported SATA controllers that I can add in. The onboard controllers in my Dell T105 aren’t supported for booting, so I spent much of today looking at alternatives. The leading choices appear to be a LSI Logic or Adaptec SATA RAID controller, but they run about $350.00, and would put a strain on the finances for the project, and may require some major re planning. I intend for the near future to use a physical machine for my AD controller, so I may end up using this T105 for that. I’d still like to find a means of getting the T105 to work for ESX4i though if I can….
I have been out-of-town for a while, first at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, then visiting a customer in Dallas. I am back now and really just started on the installation tonight. A shortage of disk space required I stop by Fry’s Electronics in Oxnard where I picked up a pair of Seagate Barracuda 1.5TB SATA drives ($89.99 each) for my data stores. While I was there, I grabbed a new 850W UPS to hold the system up for a couple of minutes for a graceful shutdown ($64.97 at the register, plus there will another $15.00 off from a mail-in rebate).
The basic system is a Dell PowerEdge T105 server with 4GB of RAM . I realize this is the minimum amount of RAM needed, and I hope to bring it up to 8GB soon (the platform maximum). I had been playing with Windows 2008 x64 (Server Core) on it and it should do fine. Though the system is listed as a supported model in the HCL, I had a bit of trouble getting it going. I installed ESX4i Update 1 (installable) to the first hard drive and when I rebooted the system displayed a “failed to find boot partition” message.
Google it my friend, so I quickly found a number of links, but this one http://communities.vmware.com/message/1403836 seemed to be the best. The problem appears to be that the built-in SATA controller isn’t supported. Their solution was to install the embedded version to a USB stick. My T105 has an internal USB slot on the motherboard (probably for things like this, or for “ready-boost”). I grabbed a 4GB SANdisk Cruiser I had in my backpack and redid the install pointing to it there. The hack was successful. The supported version on the HCL didn’t work, but I was able to get the unsupported release installed.
Looking at this in retrospect, it isn’t such a bad solution after all if I can get it to work reliably. There are some real security advantage to this route, and I couldn’t find any downside apparent at present. I may install my second server as an “installable” to really understand the differences (it is different, older hardware and more likely to be supported). Something odd that I noted was the physical interface ended up selecting 100BaseT half-duplex instead of full. Since this is a switched environment, it should have auto-negotiated, but setting it manually worked and sped things up noticeably.
The biggest issue I am seeing is that the environment is extremely slow, as if it were using the flash drive for swap or having severe problems with a driver. Everything is proceeding at an unbearably slow pace. One of the other alternatives listed in the extended thread (including the referenced threads) was to purchase a cheap, supported Promise SATA RAID controller and use that. If I can’t find a solution for the slow state I am in, I’ll try that next.
Wish me luck.
I decided that I needed to cut my home server count and make my watts all do all that they can do. As a long-time UNIX sysadmin, I have had several unix boxes at the house since the early 1990s. In preparation for a talk I volunteered to give on integrating Windows Server 2008 Active Directory and Kerberos on multiple UNIX flavors, I built out a complete, redundant 2008 AD infrastructure. It is time to get this mess under control and rationalize the environment by consolidating
I plan on necking the server environment down to two, or at most three physical servers, plus an appliance for backup DNS, torrents, etc. The first step, obtaining the free licenses to VMware ESX4i and downloading the distribution with update 1 included is completed. I am a little bushed from the late night I put in last night trying to pimp my Fedora 11 VM I installed under VMware Workstation on my desktop system. That, plus the six mile walk I just finished have left me a little tired and I don’t want to have to do the install twice. On to actual the install starting tomorrow.