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PowerEdge T130 Onboard RAID Controller or Get a Card?

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We finally got a budget to replace our entire PoS system and got a PowerEdge T130 to replace our T110. What I'm unclear on is the onboard RAID controller - is it software only or hardware or some hybrid; and what levels of RAID does it support? The existing setup is with the SATA controllers set to AHCI and RAID1 within Windows Server 2008 R2. 

Our SSD array from our existing server is still in excellent condition so I want to migrate this over when I'm done configuring the OS and PoS software. Should I go into the BIOS, change the controller to RAID and see what levels it will give me or would I do better to use the physical card from the T110 in the T130? The T110 currently uses a PERC S300 card with 4 SSD's in RAID10. OR, can someone point me toward a better RAID card for this server that would do well for RAID10? I have some time before this system goes into the production environment so I would like to make my hardware changes now while I still can.

This is only the second full-out server build I have used in the past 6 years. Would love to hear anyone's thoughts on the T130, RAID, etc. Finally, moving into the 64 bit world, thank goodness.

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RE: PowerEdge T130 Onboard RAID Controller or Get a Card?

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Finally, moving into the 64 bit world, thank goodness.

Welcome to 2009! (Sorry, I understand the difficulties of moving away from ancient tech in some organizations, I do.)

We finally got a budget to replace our entire PoS system and got a PowerEdge T130 to replace our T110. What I'm unclear on is the onboard RAID controller - is it software only or hardware or some hybrid; and what levels of RAID does it support?

Software only - it is based on the Intel chipset RAID, and supports RAID levels 0, 1, 5, 10 and non-RAID volumes. It should be avoided.

The existing setup is with the SATA controllers set to AHCI and RAID1 within Windows Server 2008 R2. 

This is what should be done with the onboard RAID controller (S130 - turned off and mirroring in the OS instead - IF hardware RAID, which is preferable, is not selected).

Should I go into the BIOS, change the controller to RAID and see what levels it will give me

Again, I would recommend against using the S130, AND you can't change from non-RAID to RAID on the fly. It would require a reinstall or backup/restore.

or would I do better to use the physical card from the T110 in the T130? The T110 currently uses a PERC S300 card with 4 SSD's in RAID10. OR, can someone point me toward a better RAID card for this server that would do well for RAID10?

The S300, while marginally better than the S130, is not supported in the T130. I would recommend the H730, or the H330 if you absolutely can't spend the money for the H730 (they are cheaper from suppliers than from Dell directly). Both will do RAID 10. The H330 will give you roughly the performance of your S300. If neither of these are chosen, I would go with what you currrently have (the S130 is your only other "supported" option, and it's garbage). If this system is heavily used, I would strongly recommend the H730, but if moderately or less software RAID is fine (you have SSD's in the new config I take it ...).

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RE: PowerEdge T130 Onboard RAID Controller or Get a Card?

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Finally, moving into the 64 bit world, thank goodness.

Welcome to 2009! (Sorry, I understand the difficulties of moving away from ancient tech in some organizations, I do.)

We finally got a budget to replace our entire PoS system and got a PowerEdge T130 to replace our T110. What I'm unclear on is the onboard RAID controller - is it software only or hardware or some hybrid; and what levels of RAID does it support?

Software only - it is based on the Intel chipset RAID, and supports RAID levels 0, 1, 5, 10 and non-RAID volumes. It should be avoided.

The existing setup is with the SATA controllers set to AHCI and RAID1 within Windows Server 2008 R2. 

This is what should be done with the onboard RAID controller (S130 - turned off and mirroring in the OS instead - IF hardware RAID, which is preferable, is not selected).

Should I go into the BIOS, change the controller to RAID and see what levels it will give me

Again, I would recommend against using the S130, AND you can't change from non-RAID to RAID on the fly. It would require a reinstall or backup/restore.

or would I do better to use the physical card from the T110 in the T130? The T110 currently uses a PERC S300 card with 4 SSD's in RAID10. OR, can someone point me toward a better RAID card for this server that would do well for RAID10?

The S300, while marginally better than the S130, is not supported in the T130. I would recommend the H730, or the H330 if you absolutely can't spend the money for the H730 (they are cheaper from suppliers than from Dell directly). Both will do RAID 10. The H330 will give you roughly the performance of your S300. If neither of these are chosen, I would go with what you currrently have (the S130 is your only other "supported" option, and it's garbage). If this system is heavily used, I would strongly recommend the H730, but if moderately or less software RAID is fine (you have SSD's in the new config I take it ...).

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RE: PowerEdge T130 Onboard RAID Controller or Get a Card?

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Thank you thank you for the information! You've always been such a good help on these forums. I'm looking at the H310 (I'm assuming this is the same as the H300 product line?) and was curious about the drive connectors. On photos, it's just got 2 SATA connectors. Or am I seeing it wrong and these are those larger hybrid connectors that split off to multiple SATA ports? In that case, I should be able to use the cables already onboard, correct? Alternatively, if we're staying within the H300 line, would the 330 be appropriate? I found a decent one with bracket under eBay item 182346914831.

And as I am looking at the chassis, two more questions come to mind:

1. Back in the day, DDR should be installed in pairs for full bandwidth. Our server comes with just one 16G stick. Would I do better to find 2x8GB or 4x4GB?

2. When you say that the S300 will not work with the T130, do you mean it's just not validated or will it actually fail to recognize in the BIOS?

and just a side note .. last month when I was pulling my hair out over my T110 BSOD's, I was able to get a Microsoft agent to look at our crash log. Just by luck, the issue was not my non-validated hardware (video card, sound card, modem), in the T110. It was Chrome not playing nicely with HTML 5, flash, in a 2003 x86 environment. I switched to the final release of Thunderbird that officially supported Windows XP and haven't had a crash since then. I think if I had figured that out just a week earlier, my boss wouldn't have OK'd the upgrade to 64 bit, lol!

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RE: PowerEdge T130 Onboard RAID Controller or Get a Card?

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Thank you thank you for the information! You've always been such a good help on these forums. I'm looking at the H310 (I'm assuming this is the same as the H300 product line?) and was curious about the drive connectors. On photos, it's just got 2 SATA connectors. Or am I seeing it wrong and these are those larger hybrid connectors that split off to multiple SATA ports? In that case, I should be able to use the cables already onboard, correct? Alternatively, if we're staying within the H300 line, would the 330 be appropriate? I found a decent one with bracket under eBay item 182346914831.

They are actually mini-SAS connectors. It is unlikely your system came with SAS cables, unless you have a backplane, but I don't think the T130 would have a backplane option. Possible though.

I would stick with the H330, as no other H3x0 controller is supported in the T130, and according to this, you won't need the bracket:

http://www.dell.com/learn/us/en/04/campaigns/dell-raid-controllers

1. Yeah, Intel has gone through several revisions of memory configuration support, and in current models, a single DIMM is a perfectly valid configuration, but to maximize performance (probably visible only in benchmarks), populate A1 and A2 (one per channel).

2. It is certainly not validated/supported, but whether or not it works anyway is anyone's guess.

and just a side note .. last month when I was pulling my hair out over my T110 BSOD's, I was able to get a Microsoft agent to look at our crash log. Just by luck, the issue was not my non-validated hardware (video card, sound card, modem), in the T110. It was Chrome not playing nicely with HTML 5, flash, in a 2003 x86 environment. I switched to the final release of Thunderbird that officially supported Windows XP and haven't had a crash since then. I think if I had figured that out just a week earlier, my boss wouldn't have OK'd the upgrade to 64 bit, lol!

I will gladly admit to ... stretching the truth (or stretching a concept based on the truth (ish)) to convince people to get off of old hardware/software when it is in their best interest. It just needs to be done, I have no guilt there 🙂

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RE: PowerEdge T130 Onboard RAID Controller or Get a Card?

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I think based on what I'm seeing, I have mini SAS cables already in the system. The SATA ports are empty and what the two drives in the server are connected with are breakout cables (2 cables, 2 breakouts each). Assuming I am seeing this right, would it be correct to just plug in the H330, and plug the breakout cables to it? And is there any distinction between using a single mini SAS port to a 4 port breakout or using both mini SAS ports on the card with 2 port breakouts each? 

And pardon this question, but what is the backplane? Are you referring to the pcie slot ports on the back of the chassis?

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RE: PowerEdge T130 Onboard RAID Controller or Get a Card?

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Possible you do ... some systems have integrated SAS connectors - just wasn't sure about the T130 - so as long as the connector is the same (there are different flavors of mini-SAS SFF connectors), then you should be able to just connect it to the PERC (as long as it is long enough :)).

And pardon this question, but what is the backplane? Are you referring to the pcie slot ports on the back of the chassis?

No, sorry, it is the board that interfaces with the drives for data and power connections for hot-swap drives (accessible from the front of the machine).

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RE: PowerEdge T130 Onboard RAID Controller or Get a Card?

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Thank you for the information. I went ahead and put together a few items in our cart for the server upgrade. 

1. PERC H330 Card with full height bracket (I will be using the existing cabling for this)

2. Found a decent deal on 2 sticks of Samsung server RAM to swap out the existing single stick

3. Downgraded to a lower wattage CPU 45W instead of the 95W. (server is intensive, but not that intensive)

Can't wait for the parts to come in. In the meantime, I have some 10,000 lines of system options to configure over. Sadly, the nature of our upgrade is so invasive that traditional migration methods don't work. Gotta redo our PoS one line at a time ... 

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RE: PowerEdge T130 Onboard RAID Controller or Get a Card?

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And there isn't another turnkey POS option that you could deploy for less than $25-30K of man-hours and hardware?!

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RE: PowerEdge T130 Onboard RAID Controller or Get a Card?

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Haha, I wish there were. We're using NCR hardware and software, which is quite monolithic letting you transact anything from gas stations to restaurants to supermarkets. Think of it like a huge black box with ten thousand switches to make it to different things. Also, each market is so different from the next that there really isn't anything "turnkey" about it since it's gotta have the right inputs setup for the right outputs. Also, different regulatory requirements. In the Bay Area, it's legal to sell alcohol 7 days a week. Now, other stores right on the border with some localities, they can't. So there's switches to restrict sales of certain items, multiple tax brackets, etc etc. We've got a blank slate with these things, so gotta go in and re-configure to our spec. We put 30k in hardware in some 6 years ago. Thank goodness this time around it's just around $12. Basically the computer boxes only. The peripherals are all industrial grade, still quite usable with good maintenance histories! Otherwise, it'd be another huge investment!

In our small region of independent retailers with 4 to 8 checkout lanes, I'm real glad that we've been able to come along so far. Given chats with other similar markets, we spend less on maintenance than any other. One market had a freak out moment when we told them that we don't pay NCR for annual maintenance. That, and we've maintained PCI compliance without the need to invest in so much new hardware - just fine tuning what we got and making smart choices about how to isolate payment traffic from other non-financial business traffic on the network through VLAN's and such.

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