I don't know who designed the online store for Dell server products but it's frequently makes buying a Dell server annoyingly difficult and over-complicated.
When a potential customer just gives up and closes the browser window, um, that's bad for sales isn't it?
A continued irksome problem is that the store options for setting up a RAID configuration simply have no concept of a "hotspare" drive, and trying to get it to understand a global hotspare spanning two arrays of different sizes would apparently explode its poor little brain.,
"ERROR, you cannot have 3 drives for RAID 1. You must remove 1 drive."
Listen the 3rd drive is the hotspare, and so yes you CAN have 3 drives for RAID 1.
Actually you can have FOUR drives for RAID 1, by setting up two hotspares. (GASP)
Actually you can have FIVE drives for RAID 1, with three hotspares. There's really no limit to the number of hotspare drives with RAID 1.
Most of the time I just end up telling the store, I want a RAID controller but no RAID config, and with an arbitrary number of drives, and then I'll just deal with setting up the array and hotspare myself when I get the hardware.
Though, this prevents buying a server with software preinstalled, but what else can you do when the store has simply no concept of hotspares, when the RAID controller documentation clearly states that hotspares are a supported configuration?
A funny thing here is that this has been a problem for at least the past five years and it has never been fixed.
I am fairly certain whoever programs the Dell online store has never physically configured a server by themselves in their life.
I never purchase through the online configurator for two reasons: 1) it is more expensive than working with a Sales Rep, and 2) advanced configurations are not available. It is not practical to have an online configurator capable of configuring the hundreds of possible drive, RAID, controller combinations, nor is it reasonable to expect it.
Having a hotspare is not an advanced configuration. You install one extra drive of the same size or bigger compared to the other drives, and you mark it as a hotspare in the controller configuration.
The Dell online store could handle it thusly:
Check here if you will have one or more hotspares [ X ] in addition to the RAID 1/5/6 arrays.
How hard is that?
Sure, it wouldn't be so hard to add support for hot-spares, but then again, it would not be difficult to add support for a 3-RAID 1 config either ... or a RAID 1/RAID 10/RAID 5 ... or a RAID 1/RAID 1/RAID 6 ... or a multi-slice RAID 5 across 4 disks ... or a 16GB RAM config with 2x8GB DIMM's ... or a 16GB RAM config in Optimizer mode not Mirroring mode ... or a 70GB OS partition ... but where do you draw the line? They all work, but there are too many conceivable combinations to include them all and guarantee none are invalid. Is the concept of hot-spares necessarily "advanced"? No, but it is one more thing.
I would say that not only is having hotspares not an advanced purchasing topic for buying a server, but if you are buying a server with hardware RAID 1/5/6 and you're not including a hotspare.... you are not qualified to be buying servers.
It's one of the cheapest forms of insurance against disaster that is available. Compared to the overall cost of a new server, including a hotspare drive is low cost, low maintenance, and automatically helps protect you against total data loss.
The Dell RAID controllers I've used (PERC 5 / 6) will not do automatic background drive scans (patrol reads) for bad sectors unless a hotspare is present. Additional hotspares are included in the patrol read process.
In fact, the Dell online store should really be saying "We detect you've selected a RAID 1/5/6 configuration. We recommend including a Hotspare drive to better protect your data against potential drive failures."
The current way the Dell Online Store for Servers deals with hotspares (not at all) is uninformed and just stupid.