Experience Information

I fought the Silicon Image 3114 with Solaris and won!

The battle
My latest battle has been against a 4-port SATA-I PCI RAID card powered by the Silicon Image 3114 chipset (it shows up as a pci1095,3114 device). As luck would have it, the card did not work out of the box with Solaris, but some Google searches did provide some hints.
In my research, I found that the card is not a true hardware RAID card as there is no actual RAID magic happening in the chip. It is all in the provided software driver (hense the Windows only drivers). The chip basically allows the computer to “understand” how the drives get sliced and diced, and does the appropriate translation so the machine can speak to the drives. Nothing else. No wonder Solaris didn’t like it. Myself, I don’t at all care that the RAID is less than functional as I plan to use ZFS+raidz for my filesystems anyway.
For Solaris to recognize the drives, the card must be flashed with the IDE version of the BIOS (see the Silicon Image link above). If one has a DOS floppy around, this process should be a piece of cake. Considering I don’t own a floppy drive anymore, and also don’t have a CDROM in my server, the process turned out to be more challenging. In the end I was successful, but it took me about 6hrs of fiddling to get it done. (The Ultimate Boot CD was a lifesaver.)
The real sticking point for me was a simple command I ran the previous night in an attempt to get the card to work. According to OpenSolaris Bug ID 6595150, all I had to do was run an update_drv command to get things going. It added an entry to the bottom of /etc/driver_aliases to indicate that the RAID card was in fact associated with the ata driver, something that made complete sense to me at the time. Turns out, this bug is from an older version of OpenSolaris, and I never should have run this command. Of course the OS was never nice enough to tell me anything, so I was flying in the dark trying to figure out why nothing was working. After literally hours of debugging – this after the many hours already spent trying to flash the annoying little card – I removed the line and everything started working. Yay!
Moral of the story
When everyone else on Internet says you need to flash the BIOS with the IDE version for this particular card, listen to their wisdom. You don’t need to fiddle with things.
The system I got the card running on
OS: Nexenta 2.0RC3 (based on OpenSolaris b104+)
CPU: VIA Samuel 2 @800MHz
What I got running
For those who care, here is a semi-complete list of items I purchased. My goal was adding ~900G of redundant storage to my little Nexenta based Solaris server. I had practically no space free in the case as there is only a single 3.5″ drive bay, and a single 5.25″ drive bay. And, as the motherboard itself is pretty old, it only has two PATA connectors, USB 1.1, and a single PCI slot. In other words, not much to work with. As such, I felt that filling the single PCI slot with a 4-port SATA card and adding a special drive enclosure that would hold four 2.5″ drives was the way to go. My server sits in a closet and all of my machines connect via wireless, so high disk I/O bandwidth was not one of my design goals.
4-bay 2.5″ SATA HDD in 5.25″ drive enclosure (vendor) [] (reseller) []
4-port SATA-I PCI card (vendor) [] (reseller) []
This seems to be a generic card as I have seen pictures that look exactly the same from other venders, such a LINDY in the US.

4x Western Digital 320G Scorpio 2.5″ SATA HDD
Western Digital (vendor) [] (reseller) []

Interesting read: The Other Half of “Artists Ship”

I find the article very intriguing. So very true, and so very sad that it is so true.

I don’t want to think the fact that a previous company I worked for had seven levels of approval just to purchase a new computer monitor, or the fact that another company required ten signatures just to get any software pushed to production.

I am glad that my current employer fights such political nonsense, and that I as an employee can point out problems and suggest improvements to any check I feel might be a waste of time and money.