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Span24
1 Copper

S300 on R310: Constant Disk Activity Light! (AARGH!)

All,

I am putting this out there to verify that others are seeing the same activity on their systems to confirm a Dell diagnosis for my system.

I recently recieved a new R310 with four SAS/10K/149GB HDDs on a S300 Controller from Dell.  When I fired the system up and logged into Server 2008 R2 I noticed that all four of the drive lights were dancing like little green disco balls (about 8 flashes per second).  The flashing reminded me that perhaps the controller was doing an initialization of the drives.  Looking at the configuration Dell shipped I found that (because I made no specific request) there were no RAID volumes and each of the four drives were available in Windows Disk Mangler at 149GB each.  Oh Well, I want to setup two RAID 1s anyhow.  So I got out the Dell Systems Management Disk and proceeded to install the OS again, this time with two 149GB RAID 1 Volumes.

After installation I again noticed that all four drive lights were flashing rapidly.  Again, thinking that the controller was building my new arrays I left the machine over the weekend to do its business.

Monday morning I was surprised to see that the lights were still flashing just as they must have been for the entire weekend.  I restarted the system and found that the lights flashed ONLY when the OS was loaded.  This cannot be the controller doing any rebuild or initialization, I thought.  So I got Dell on the line.

The first technician went on about the perils of the new S300 cards and how I should have purchased a hard card.  At the end of the day I stopped all Windows Services, reseated all drives, verified that indexing was not installed, ran DSET (twice), upgraded the firmware on the S300, and spent about 2 1/2 hours looking for the culprit.  Eventually the tech relented and decided to send me a new controller.

I installed the new controller with no change.  The new unit had outdated firmware so again I upgraded the frimware.  I ran DiskMon to determine if, in fact, I was seeing disk read/write activity from the OS and decided that Windows was not writing or reading to the disk at the level that the lights indicated.  I called Dell back and spent some time with the second technician who suggested that the activity I was seeing in the form of the green flashing lights was in fact NOT disk read/write activity, but the controller POLLING the drives.  He further explained that this is typical of software based controllers.  Though this would confirm what I was seeing from DiskMon it does not give me a warm-fuzzy feeling.  For years I have monitored the disk activity lights on Servers and Workstations to get that 'general idea' of what the system was doing. According to the technicians at Dell there is no real reason for the controller to display the polling, it just 'does that'.

My question for anyone running this same controller is 'Does your system operate in the same manner or are the level 1 techs at Dell just trying to get me to close the case?  The evidence certainly supports what the techs are telling me but I cannot believe that the manufacturer of these cards want us to see communications between the drive and controller instead of disk read/write activity.

Thanx for staying with me for the long read and thanx in advance for any input you can offer!  My lights continue to flash, ...CONSTANTLY!

Michael

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1 Reply
madprofessor
1 Copper

Re: S300 on R310: Constant Disk Activity Light! (AARGH!)

Michael,

I've noticed a similar issue with my S300 on an R310 server.  I noticed a few months ago the drive activity lights seemed to be always flashing.  After a clean install of the RAID, the issue persisted.  My S300 has latest firmware.  I am using 2008 R2.  In order to stop the pesky issue I reverted the driver to R245795 instead of using the latest driver (R294488).  This fixed the issue for me but means I am currently using an older driver.  

Incidentally, during another clean install test I was able to reproduce the issue.  When selecting the latest RAID driver during 2008 R2 install the mad-drive-lights-flashing-issue began again during the install.  Selecting the older RAID driver gave me back my sanity.

It does seem to me that this is a driver based issue or a firmware issue based on the driver expectations.  I am not sure if this helps your situation but I'd be interested to know.

~Joe

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