RAID on my HP ML115 G5 ESXi server

Continuing with my exploits at rebuilding my HP ML115 G5 based home server running ESXi 5 I’ve now turned my attention to data resilience by looking at a hardware RAID solution.

After a bit of research I decided on using an HP Smart Array P400 Controller as it seems to be a good balance between performance and cost, particularly when coupled with the optional 512MB battery backed accelerator cache. Another reason for choosing the P400 controller is that it appears on the VMWare ESXi Hardware Compatibilty List.

There are lots on eBay for a reasonable price, many of which appear to be pulled from decommissioned enterprise rack servers. I got mine for £60 including the 512MB cache and battery.

The P400 features 8 channels split across two SFF8484 connectors. Typically these are connected to hot swap SAS drive cages but they can also be connected directly to attached SATA drives using an SFF8484 to SATA breakout cable, such as this one sold by Startech.

I’ve never used a hardware RAID solution before so it’s a new learning experience for me. The process involves using the HP Array Configuration Utility (ACU) – which can be booted from CD/DVD or USB flash drive – to create a new array containing the desired physical drives, and then on this array creating a logical drive in the required RAID scheme. For my initial tests I’m going to use a couple of HP 160GB SATA drives configured as a simple RAID 1 mirror which will hopefully give me the data resilience I need. With more drives available other options such as RAID 1+0 or RAID 5 are possible.

I want to do some testing with this configuration, including ensuring it works fine with ESXi and also by removing one of the drives to simulate a failure so I can understand how it handles an array in a degraded state and how it recovers. Assuming everything goes well and I am happy with it all I will then look at converting my current live ESXi installation over to RAID 1 scheme using the existing 250GB HP SATA drives I have. Fingers crossed it all goes OK!

The dead HP ML115 – the plot thickens…

So, I’ve now replaced my dead HP ML115 G5 server with one bought on eBay and built a second one from a combination of parts from my original broken one and another bought for a bargain price on eBay.

Once the second ML115 G5 was built, I just thought I’d try the old “broken” motherboard in this new chassis… and lo and behold, it works!

When I previously investigated the problems with my original server, there was no sign of life when powered up. No motherboard LEDs lit, no fans and no response to the on/off switch. So I tested the HP power supply out of the chassis with a couple of hard drives connected and shorting the connectors for the on/off switch. The PSU fan and hard drives span up suggesting the PSU was OK. I then tried an old, spare non-HP ATX PSU I had lying around and this didn’t seem to work either. So my conclusion was that either the motherboard or the chassis wiring was at fault – with the motherboard being my strong suspicion.

Well now I know that the motherboard is OK. The original motherboard works fine in the original chassis with one of the “new” PSUs. I’ve also just tried again with the spare non-HP ATX PSU and it works! So my investigation and testing of the PSU was woefully inadequate.

I suspect that genuine replacement HP PSUs are going to be prohibitively expensive so I’ll either look for a used one on eBay or look at using a non-HP ATX power supply instead (the only downside of the latter being that the HP PSU is a non-standard size – it’s smaller – and so fitting a standard ATX PSU in the chassis needs some minor modifications for additional mounting holes and also leaves a gap between the PSU and the top of the case).

I’m going to have enough HP ML115 G5 servers before I’m done to start my own mini datacentre!

Replacing my dead HP ML115 G5

Following on from a previous post relating to the death of my HP ML115 G5 server, I’ve been busy on eBay over the last few days looking for a replacement. As a result, I’ve managed to secure not one but two used ML115 G5s.

The first is exactly the same model as my original with the quad core Opteron 1352 CPU albeit having been upgraded to 8GB RAM and with a new 250GB hard drive to replace the original 160GB drive. It’s in very good condition and looks like it’s been well looked after. I managed to get this for £120 as a Best Offer which seems to be a typical sort of price for a good condition ML115 G5. It’s a little more than I wanted to pay but I don’t mind too much given that it has 8GB RAM which would probably cost £30-£40 anyway.

The second was a last minute purchase which was too good an opportunity to miss. It’s a dual core Opteron 1214 model with 1GB RAM and separate video and sound cards and a Hansol LCD monitor which has actually been used as a cheap desktop machine, but I managed to get this all for the princely sum of only £31. What a bargain! The auction for this started with an initial bid of £30 or a Buy It Now of £50. After a couple of email exchanges with the seller to confirm details of the item I was just about to go for the Buy It Now option when someone actually placed a £30 bid and the Buy It Now option disappeared! Bad eBay timing again! However, as it turned out I managed to win the auction in the end with a bid of only £31, so I actually saved myself £19 on what I was prepared to pay. I will most likely replace the dual core CPU in this model with the quad core from my original and may get an extra 4GB RAM to add to my original 4GB so that I end up with two equivalent 8GB models.

So all in all I’m pretty pleased with how things have turned out.

Next step is to get one of the ML115s configured as my main server again. More on this later…

My HP ML115 G5 home server is dead

After several years of trusty service, my HP ML115 G5 quad core AMD Opteron server is dead. This was my main internet facing home server hosting mail accounts for family and friends, a couple of personal web sites, DHCP, local MySQL database, a ZoneMinder installation supporting my IP based security cameras and other assorted services so it’s loss is a bit of a problem to say the least!

The server ran a bare-metal install of Debian 6 and had performed admirably since it was first purchased to replace my previous lower spec home server. At the time I only paid about £200 for it as it was purchased using one of the numerous offers HP runs from time to time. This was great value for a quad core AMD 2.2 GHz Opteron 1352 with 1GB RAM, a 160GB hard drive and a DVD-ROM drive in a decent quality tower case. I transferred the old hard drive over from my previous server and upgraded the memory to 4GB and combined with an APC UPS this is the state it has been running in for the last few years. Until now.

There is absolutely no sign of life from the motherboard – no LEDs on the motherboard are lit despite trying alternative PSUs – so I suspect the board is dead.

I’ve been very pleased with this server so I would like to replace it with an equivalent if possible. I’ve looked up the price online for a new replacement motherboard sourced from HP and it is in the range £300 – £400 so there’s no way I will be going that route. I did manage to find a new one on eBay from a seller in China for around £80 including shipping but this was sold just as I was about to order it! So my next step is to try and find a complete used ML115 G5 on eBay either to use as a donor for just the motherboard to fix mine, or to act as a complete replacement.

In the short term however my immediate priority is to restore the services I’m missing, most importantly email. I do have an HP N36L Microserver with 8GB RAM acting as a home lab ESXi host so I think I will build a temporary VM on there as a stop gap until I get a more permanent replacement in place. Watch this space…