So, we’ve recently purchased a Xserve G5 so that we can upgrade the hardware that our mail server runs on from a Dual G4 Xserve.
The machine purchased came with a single 80GB SATA Drive Module, so I purchased two more ADMs from a supplier along with 3 of the Seagate ES (Enterprise Series) SATA drives at 320GB in size.
We also had been planning on upgrading a customers Xserve G5 that has a Hardware RAID PCI card and 3 x 80GB drives to 3 x 400 as they will be using this as a media server in their application.
We had quite a bit of trouble getting the LSI/Megaraid card to work reliably with these three drives.
I had done some research into the issue by searching my archives of the Apple OS X Server Mailing List, and found some statements that non-Apple firmware drives do not work with that RAID card. After some empirical testing we have confirmed this to a 100% certainty. So, if you are looking to upgrade drives in your Xserve G5 RAID set, you will need to find and install drives with Apple firmware. One possible source is that the Xserve RAID does NOT have this restriction and that you might be able to swap out drives that are in that device that have Apple Firmware and use them in the Xserve G5. Of course you’ve now created an “unsupported configuration” with your Xserve RAID and that’s a choice you can make.
The main symptoms we’ve been seeing is that the megaraid card doesn’t register itself with the system soon enough from a cold boot. And when it does, it does not (using the -showdevices command) show any of the drives attached to it. Warm booting after that sometimes will get the card and drives to show up, but after creating a RAID set and shutting down/rebooting, you have the same problems and the card starts sounding it’s alarm. Basically, totally unreliable as a subsystem. We’ve tried different cards, different Xserve G5s, different cables, different drives. Only one combination worked just as you would expect it to: Apple firmware Xserve drives.
Unfortunately, we’ve probably spent WAY more time in learning this tidbit than we would have saved if we had merely purchased Apple drives to begin with.
There is a possible source of bare SATA drives from Apple: Their 500GB drive they sell to be installed in the MacPro. It is $330 though, but that is cheaper than one with a new ADM.
UPDATE: I shared this blog post with a colleague who has an Xserve G5 and uses the RAID card and I knew that saying “100%” was going to be a mistake. He is using non-Apple Maxtor 300GB drives in his setup and reports no problems.
UPDATE: I did find 4 – 500GB SATA drives that had been pulled from MacPro machines. These looked to be good Seagate drives and they had the Apple logo. $100 each. Got them in, connected them up and unfortunately, the machine exhibited mostly the same symptoms as when the drives were not Apple drives. So I ordered some more 250GB drives from a source that has Xserve parts and threw them in. Worked.