Fibre Channel

I'm going to be updating my home server soon, and I've often thought it would be nice to have some fast server-class harddisks for speed and reliability, maybe even arranged in a mirror because I've got a lot of stuff I wouldn't want to lose. A couple weeks ago I started looking into Fibre Channel gear that's available on eBay and was surprised to see how cheap some of this stuff was, with several 10k rpm and 15k rpm drives advertised as new going for 1/4 or less of the retail prices. I bit the bullet and bought a bunch of HBAs, cables, and drives for under $300.

The first HBA I got was a Qlogic QLA2000 for $1.99, which seems to be a stripped down version of the QLA2100 that has a 32-bit PCI interface instead of the 2100's 64-bit PCI-X setup. The machine I'm putting this into only has regular 32-bit PCI slots, so I'm not really loosing out on anything by using the cheaper card. Also got a QLA2200 which is a 64-bit card, but it works fine in a 32-bit PCI slot.

The drives are a pair of "new" 146.8GB Seagate Cheetah 10K.7 drives, part # ST3146707FC with an IBM label on them for $230 total. To buy the SCSI versions of those drives from NewEgg at today's price would cost $430 each, so I've saved over $600 by going this route. However, I entered one of the drive's serial numbers into Seagate's warranty webpage, and found that it's not eligible for warranty through them - you must go through the OEM they sold the drives to (IBM in this case). Did some poking around on IBM's site and it's not obvious if/how you'd get warranty service through them. I guess that's the price you pay buying this type of drive.

A 5-pack of HSSDC-DB9 cables was just $20, and the final piece was a "Start" T-Card directly from CK Computer Systems for $34. (the FAQ on that site was really helpful)

Basically just plugged it all together, and fired the machine up. The Qlogic card shows a BIOS boot message saying to hit ALT-Q to get into their setup. There's one part in their BIOS utility where it scans your loop for devices - it showed the card, and then 15 blank spots. I thought I was screwed at first, but after hitting page down several times I found the drive at id 120. Wow, FC can handle a lot of devices compared to SCSI.

Booted FreeBSD 6.1 (already installed on a regular ATA disk), and saw it detect the Qlogic card with the isp(4) driver, and a da0 drive. Once I saw that working, I tried adding ispfw_load="YES" to /boot/loader.conf. On the next reboot, it paused after it detected the isp card, presumably loading the firmware that comes with FreeBSD. The relevant dmesg parts are:

isp0: <Qlogic ISP 2100 PCI FC-AL Adapter> port 0xce00-0xceff mem 
      0xfe7df000-0xfe7dffff irq 17 at device 2.0 on pci2
da0 at isp0 bus 0 target 120 lun 0
da0: <IBM-SSG S0BE146 3709> Fixed Direct Access SCSI-3 device
da0: 100.000MB/s transfers, Tagged Queueing Enabled
da0: 137501MB (275154368 524 byte sectors: 255H 63S/T 17127C)

The camcontrol utility seems to work with the HBA/drive combination no problem at all. However, when I tried to do a fdisk /dev/da0 it errored out with:

fdisk: can't read fdisk partition table
fdisk: /boot/mbr: length must be a multiple of sector size

Oops, didn't like the 524 byte sectors. I'll cover how I dealt with that in part 2.