ServeRAID – Fun with GUI-Tools

We’ve recently bought three more drives for our in-house file server. Up until now, we had a RAID 5 array (using a IBM ServeRAID controller) spawning three 33GB drives. That array recently got very, very close to being full.

So today, I wanted to create a second array using the three new 140GB drives.

When you download the ServeRAID support CD image, you get access to a nice GUI-tool which is written in Java and can be used to create Arrays on these ServeRAID controllers.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to run the GUI at first because somehow, the Apple X11 server wasn’t willing/able to correctly display the GUI. I always got empty screens when I tried (the server is headless, so I had to use X11 forwarding via ssh).

Using a Windows machine with Xming (which is very fast, working perfectly and totally free as in speech) worked though and I got the GUI running.

All three drives where recognized, but one was listed as “Standby” and could not be used for anything. Additionally, I wasn’t able to find any way in the GUI to actually move the device from Standby to Ready.

Even removing and shuffling the drives around didn’t help. That last drive was always recognized as “Standby”, independant of the bay I plugged it into.

Checking the feature list of that controller showed nothing special – at first I feared that the controller just didn’t support more than 5 drives. That fear was without reason though: The controller supports up to 32 devices – more than enough for the server’s 6 drive bays.

Then, looking around on the internet, I didn’t find a solution for my specific problem, but I found out about a tool called “ipssend” and there was documentation how to use it in an old manual by IBM.

Unfortunately, newer CD images don’t contain ipssend any more, Forcing you to use the GUI which in this case didn’t work for me. It may be that there’s a knob to turn somewhere, but I just failed to see it.

In the end, I found a very, very old archive at the IBM website which was called dumplog and contained that ipssend command in a handy little .tgz archive. Very useful.

Using that utility solved the problem for me:

# ./ipssend setstate 1 1 5 RDY

No further questions asked.

Then I used the Java-GUI to actually create the second array.

Now I’m asking myself a few questions:

  • Why is the state “Standby” not documented anywhere (this is different from a drive in Ready state configured as Standby drive)?
  • Why is there no obvious way to de-standby a drive with the GUI?
  • Why isn’t that cool little ipssend utility not officially available any more?
  • Why is everyone complaining that command line is more complicated to use and that GUIs are so much better when obviously, the opposite is true?