Adaptec’s RAID BIOS Sucks

I’ve been building my systems with RAID mirrors for the past few years. It costs only slightly more, and gives me a nice feeling of security. RAID mirroring nicely counteracts the nagging sense of doubt caused by my hard drive’s pathetic one-year warranty, and the mere existance of it’s MTBF.

The last system I built included the Adaptec 2410SA SATA RAID card. When I created the array, I was given two options: “Quick Init”, or “Build/Verify”. I chose “Quick Init” for the following reasons:

  1. I’m not a patient person.
  2. This choice was reminiscent of the Windows NTFS format process, which can include a nearly-pointless bad-block test at great expense.
  3. The interface gave me no other information on which to base my decision

Luckily, everything went fine. I installed the OS, all kinds of software, copied my data over, etc. It seemed like I had made the right choice. That was, well, until I rebooted and noticed that the RAID BIOS kept identifying my array’s status as “Quick Init”.

I know from experience that an array’s status can be “Optimal”. Why was my array not “Optimal”? Why are you telling me, on every reboot, some random information about how I created my array 10 years ago?

Suddenly, I am feeling less secure about my data. Is it really being mirrored on both drives? Maybe “Quick Init” is some kind of code for “just put the data on one drive for now, and I’ll do “Build/Verify” later?”

This was unsettling. I entered the RAID BIOS setup and decided to see what options I had. I was presented with four choices:

  • Manage Arrays
  • Create Array
  • Initialize Drives
  • Rescan Drives

OK I’m using my first lifeline: the 50/50. Computer, please take away two wrong answers. Well I’ve already created my array, so that isn’t right. Also, rescanning the drives apparently just looks for new drives that somehow weren’t detected a second ago, so that’s not useful either. I’m left with “Manage” or “Initialize”.

Oddly enough, the “Manage” option doesn’t actually provide me with the opportunity to actually change much. It displays a whole bunch of information (helpfully reasserting my array’s status as “Quick Init”) but it offers no way to change any of it. I can press CTRL-R to restore an array, but this pops up a giant warning message that scares me away.

Next, I try “Initialize Drives”. I’m already nervous, because at least in my brain, the word “initialize” has this connotation of writing-zeros across my whole disk or something. It gets worse, because I’m presented with a list that contains each drive — not each array — but each drive individually. I don’t think the operation I want to perform should happen to a drive, it should happen to an array of them. Ugh. If I press ahead, selecting both drives from my array, I’m presented with yet another giant red warning message that scares me away.

So that’s where I am, right now, today. I bought some Adaptec hardware to give myself confidence that I would not lose my data. I did it to feel secure. Except, I don’t feel secure. I am worried that my RAID mirror isn’t actually mirroring anything. All of the options that the RAID BIOS presents to me are guarded by giant red warning messages that scare me.

It’s like a game of Russian roulette where you pull the trigger, and you don’t find out if you’ve blown your head off for a year or two. All I can do is wait for the day when a drive fails, and hope that I’ve actually been mirroring all along.

Adaptec, what the hell have you done to me? RAID is not new. It’s literally as old as I am. You’ve had nearly 28 years to sort this out. Why does your RAID BIOS suck so badly? Why does it use meaningless words like “manage” and “initialize”? Why can’t you just tell me what is going on in a way that I understand?

If quality is job #1 at Ford, security should be job #1 at Adaptec. You need to make me feel more secure about my data. Instead, you have done exactly the opposite.

Advertisements

30 Responses to “Adaptec’s RAID BIOS Sucks”


  1. 1 Evandro October 24, 2005 at 9:50 am

    Mark,

    I chose the same option for the same reasons using RAID 5 with the same controller and after a while it showed me that the array was fully initialized.

    Then again, it’s a system which is never shut down. Could it be that you don’t let your system on long enough for the set to fully initialize?

    HTH

  2. 2 Mark October 25, 2005 at 3:06 am

    The system stays on 24/7. It’s been weeks since I did the initial install.

    Apparently there is some Adaptec RAID managment software that might tell me something useful about my array, but it doesn’t seem to work on x64.

  3. 3 Evandro October 27, 2005 at 8:11 am

    There’sh shurely shomething shtinking… 🙂

    I could never get that management utility to work either. I only noticed that the array was initialized rebooting between system upgrades.

    We could compare firmware versions, but that would require rebooting the system, which I can seldom afford to do.

    You know how to reach me if you want to talk further about it.

    Good luck.

  4. 4 z30 November 3, 2005 at 7:11 pm

    I build internet servers. 3 months ago I decide to use Adaptec 2410SA.
    It was realy bad idea, because in aaccli aplication Adaptec dispay information about errors in container (Mirror).
    This container works very slowly and users of my server ask me to do something. I`ve made bios upgrade, after two weeks my container (mirror) lost data (!!!), and disks were OK! I will never buy Adaptec.
    z30

  5. 5 Joe January 2, 2006 at 12:10 pm

    I just found your blog as I am setting up a RAID array using a Dell 6 channel controller and it is giving me the same option with no description. I just found the following in some Adaptec documentation. Not sure if you care two months later:

    Method Keyword
    Method is an optional keyword, indicating which method to use
    when creating a redundant (RAID 1, 5, and 10) array. Possible
    values are:
    ■ Build (the default)—Perform a build/verify process on the array.
    Takes longer than Clear, but allows you to begin using the array
    immediately.
    ■ Clear—Clear the array. Faster than a build/verify process, but
    you have to wait for the operation to be completed before you
    can begin using the array.
    ■ Quick Init—Makes the array available immediately, but does not
    accomplish a build/verify. Parity and mirror information is created
    as data is written to the drive (called full-stripe write mode), which
    reduces overall array performance. Maximum performance is
    achieved by starting and completing a build/verify.
    Example
    Method=Build

    I’m still not fully clear what the difference is, guess Ill stick with the default.

  6. 6 Mark January 2, 2006 at 2:55 pm

    Joe,

    I’ve still got the “Quick Init” problem. I’m just doing the whole fingers-in-the-ears “la la la” thing.

    Thanks for that info. The phrase “Parity and mirror information is created as data is written to the drive” makes me feel a little bit better.

    I’m not sure anyone at Adaptec will give a shit, but this is easily the number one entry on my blog. Lots of random people are apparently Googling for “Quick Init” or something.

    -Mark

  7. 7 Blue February 8, 2006 at 11:54 am

    Hi, from the Adaptec Comics

    “Overall, the Build method takes longer than Clear, but it enables
    you to begin using the array immediately. Although faster, Clear
    must complete before you can begin using the array. Quick Init
    makes the array available immediately, but for RAID 5 write
    performance is impacted until a ******Verify with Fix is run on the array.”******

    The option should be somewhere in the BIOS

    Good luck

  8. 8 John May 5, 2006 at 9:31 am

    Hi Mark, I run a bunch of security camera servers and use the Adaptec 2810. I ran across your blog when I Googled “Quick Init” just like you stated above. I’ve alway used the Build/Verify option, but was wondering what the quick init was all about.

    I can say this, I’ve had to rebuild about 5 of my camera servers due the arrays failing. AND THEY’RE ALL RAID 5! I believe two of the instances were failed drives, but the others JUST needed to have the array deleted and then recreated. Bullshit if you ask me. I’m starting to question the quality of these Adaptec SATA adapters. Funny thing is, I’ve never had any of this kind of trouble with their SCSI adapters. Kind of chicken shit that they don’t have the same quality or reliability for their SATA adapters.

    I Hope this doesn’t scare you even more, I just wanted to mention what I’ve experienced. Good luck to you. Oh by the way, I believe the Array management software you’re referring to is called Adaptec Storage Manager. I use it, but the only thing it’s good for in my opinion is checking to see if the array is buliding/verifying, opimal or degraded. I don’t see much use other than that. Anyhow, good luck to you, and I hope it all works out for you.

    -John

  9. 9 Mark May 6, 2006 at 5:15 pm

    John,

    Thanks for the comment. When you say “just needed to have the array deleted and recreated”, are you talking about a destructive operation? Did you lose all of your data?

    Pretty much *everything* you can do in the RAID BIOS comes with blinky red WARNINGs and “are you sure” type messages. This is my major complaint. Adaptec’s software makes me terrified to do *anything*.

    -Mark

  10. 10 Fabs May 27, 2006 at 5:39 pm

    Found your solution…
    guess where!! Adaptec support website! just searched using keywords “quick init”
    “RAID array was created with option “Quick Init”. How is it set it to “ Optimal ”

    Answer:

    Quick Init option allows you to bypass the full build process of the array. It will perform the array on the fly as you use the array drives.

    In order to have the array show as Optimal after being Quick Init, you must initiate and allow a Verify to complete on the array.

    This is done through the Storage Manager Browser Edition software that comes with the controller.

    To do so:

    – Run SMBE (Storage Manager Browser Edition)
    – Select the array.
    – Then click the Tasks button.
    – Go to the New Task tab and create a Verify task for the array.

    Once that Verify runs and completes, the array will go to “ Optimal ” status.

    cheers
    Fabs

  11. 11 Mark May 27, 2006 at 8:44 pm

    Fabs,

    Thanks for the comment. I actually tried this months ago. It didn’t work because I am using Windows x64 and they didn’t have a storage manager driver for my OS.

    Actually, that’s not the whole story. When I attempted to install their storage manager, it actually appeared to succeed, despite the fact that it was incompatible with my OS. I removed it, and a few weeks later I realized that I could no longer use USB storage devices on my PC. It took two or three guys from the NT storage team a couple of weeks to debug my machine (working on the Microsoft campus has its perks). Turns out that the adaptec software left a dangling entry in the filter driver stack, which in turn caused my problem. What a piece of junk.

    Can I just get a straightforward RAID BIOS that is simple, easy to understand, and has the functionality I need? Is it really too much to ask?

    The next time I buy a RAID controller I can promise you it will be made by anyone-but-Adaptec.

    -Mark

  12. 12 Fabs May 28, 2006 at 6:19 pm

    Hi Mark,
    im sorry for all the troubles you’ve had with Adaptec stuff.
    So far i have always had good experiences with Adaptec.

    It looks like Adaptec wants to minimise the amount of
    configuration done through the BIOS interface.
    That would be great if they provided windows X64 software that would work!

    there is 2 possible solutions:
    1.- put a windows XP/2003 X86 install on an aditional partition/external harddrive, install the X86 utility from adaptec and run the verify from there.

    2.Delete the array and re create it using the build/verify option instead of “quick init”.

    however, i have done some testing on both setups and there seems to be no performance degradation between the “quick init” mode and “optimal” states the array perform very similar in both situations.

    the question is though if you were to pullout a drive from your array whether it will still provide the redundancy offered by an “optimal” array…

    hope you can get it sorted! there is nothing more frustrated than knowing there could be a problem with your array!

    Cheers
    Fabs

  13. 13 Suzanne July 1, 2006 at 5:02 am

    I have the same problem with SCSI RAID 5.

    Now the problem is that in my Adaptec Storage Manager, there is no “New Task” tab 😉 I also can’t run ‘verify’ because it is grayed out. The only thing that I can run is ‘verify with fix’ and that’s what I have done but it didn’t solve the problem.

    The status still didn’t change to OPTIMAL, it still says QUICK INIT. Actually the verify runs thorugh for many hours, and then comes up with the error message ”Verify failed: controller 1, logical device 1 (“system”) [0x00]”. The application also tells me to check the Adaptec Storage Manager Event log for further info, but there it simply says the same error message again without further information.

    I’ve been using Adaptec RAID controllers for years, have several different SCSI and SATA controllers in our servers. Especially with the SATA I had nothing but trouble, they simply suck (sorry, I have no other words). And with the SCSI I am slowly understanding that Adaptec is not doing so great work with them after all. I even found a bug once that they then fixed with the next firmware release (optional battery module would simply not be recognized by their controller – it’s like they’ve never even tested it with a battery plugged in).

    Would be great if someone from Adaptec would find this blog and shed some light on it!

    Greetings from Hong Kong,
    Suzanne

  14. 14 karl December 29, 2006 at 2:32 pm

    Hi,

    in SMBE, you need to mark not a logical device but a single disk, then you can create a new task for a verify…

    karl

  15. 15 karl December 30, 2006 at 3:06 am

    And you can verify a logical device by using the CLI.

    CLI> open AAC0
    CLI> container list

    CLI> container scrub 1

    CLI> close

    would verify the second array…

    regards karl

  16. 16 Mark December 30, 2006 at 3:10 am

    Hi Karl,

    What is SMBE?

    When you say “CLI” do you mean the bootable linux CD that came with the adapter? If I remember correctly, it didn’t work on my system.

    It’s been a while since I’ve tried to remedy this issue, but I recall that just about the only interface I could actually use was the RAID BIOS.

    -Mark

  17. 17 Paul P. February 3, 2007 at 11:54 am

    I’ve been going round and round with this friggin controller of mine trying to do a very simple task – restore the other side of a degraded RAID 1 array. It’s one of the new SAS controllers, and I’m just running 2 new 15k SAS drives RAID 1 with brand new drives for the OS and 2 brand new SATA drives Raid 1 for bulk data storage.

    Not sure how it got degraded in the first place, but I finally figured out how to rebuild it, as the ‘verify’ and ‘verify with fix’ options were grayed out within Adap Storage Mgr. The only thing that worked was using the bootable ASM CD which came with the controller. I have no idea why I couldn’t do this in the BIOS or the OS. The options weren’t there. The logical drive is now 75% rebuilt. I’ll post back if this actually works.

    BTW, Adaptec is pretty tight with their software. You gotta have a Tech Support ID and register on their site to download.

  18. 18 Gunner August 6, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    Guys, I work with Adaptec often. My customers consider them the best controllers for both ease of use (Adaptec Storage Manager) and hardware (speeds and feeds), very few cards are faster than Adaptec’s ARC (hardware based raid cards).

    Sorry you’ve not been having the best of luck, but I think that their tech-support should be able to help. They know what they’re doing and should be able to help you. Also, as for running the “LOG”s…thats more so that you can email the log to their tech support..you don’t really need to interpret it yourself. Sometimes it will spit out a 16 digit code that only they can decipher. Good luck though.

  19. 19 Mark August 6, 2007 at 6:45 pm

    I’ve long since switched to LSI cards, but I’m starting to think RAID controllers are a problem altogether. Have you heard of the RAID-5 write hole? Or Sun’s ZFS and RAID-Z?

    http://blogs.sun.com/bonwick/entry/raid_z

  20. 20 Dave June 10, 2008 at 11:53 am

    I have a similar problem with the same controller. RAID 5
    The RAID gets corrupted pretty easily. Also, when I try to reinstall Windows, setup just hangs at random places. I also used Quit INIT. Setup makes it through most of the way then hangs 70-80% through.
    I’m going to try to delete the RAID, change memory on the machine, and rebuild using the clear process.

  21. 21 Chad January 4, 2009 at 11:48 am

    I have used Supermicro Server boards with the Adaptec 2020SA and the 21610SA SATA controllers, they are not to be trusted at all ever, they lose drives, lose arrays and of course data.

    3Ware ATA and SATA have been without issue and I have run the 3ware with sub par equipment (old used mixed drives), whereas the Adaptec has been run with topshelf gear in everyway except the adaptec controller. 🙂

    Adaptec SCSI works… forget their foray into the irreversible data erasure sata products. Only recommended for Enron, lawyers and the Gov.

  22. 22 Steve April 11, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    Nice thread! I too found this via Google… and i’m also having issues with my Adaptec/Dell 2610SA.

    I bought 4x1tb drives, ran into the RAID5 2tb limit problem, worked around that, and then copied my data over.

    When I put all the disks in my server, one of the sata power plugs came loose and the RAID started with one disk missing. I powered off, plugged it back in, and booted up. Upon bootup, all the partitions were missing!

    The ASM showed both logical drives as being ‘failed’, but all the disks are online and fine. I had the option to verify and fix the main 2tb logical disk, which I did. That took about 2 days, and now that is fine. The second logical drive (partitioned in two) is failed, but all the options are greyed out to try and fix it!

    So far i’ve read some tips here and elsewhere. I’ll be trying the CLI as soon as I install that component, but i’d be keen to know how Paul.P got his going!

  23. 23 Shane March 31, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    Adaptec 1220SA updated to latest firmware
    Two x 1 TB drives Seagate, 7200.11 and 7200.12 latest firmware
    Model: ST31000333AS(used for storage) and ST31000528AS(brand new)

    Trying to create fresh Raid 1.

    Tried quick init, but that’s only for new drives.. doesn’t work!!

    Tried Clear array, after few hours a new screen finally appeared with info on the array, BUT it was covered in ASCII characters aka crashed. I have tried clearing twice now, don’t wanna try 3rd

    Now im trying to build array, but it asks for a source drive, so i choose my brand new 1 TB. I don’t understand why a brand new array build needs a source drive, considering they both will be writing the EXACT same data ??????? I will find out in a few hours apparently if this process will work!

    In windows i try and use the wizard to add a raid 1 and my used 1 TB dissapears from the Storage Manager, with a failed message!

    Also wrote a mail to adaptec to see if they can help out yesterday, hopefully they can shed a bit of light on the topic.

  24. 24 Steve March 31, 2011 at 2:09 am

    Wow.. This is really disheartening.. I wouldn’t believe it if I weren’t experiencing it myself..

    It’s enough that I am removing my AAR-2610SA from my iSCSI box before I load any data on it.. I sure hope this LSI controller I have is better.. Sure looks similar, but the BIOS is COMPLETELY different, so I think it’s not likely to have the same issues..

    Anyway, thanks for the info..

  25. 25 norbert May 18, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Awe comon guys, you call yourselves professionals!

    if you want to run x86 software on a 64 bit platform, just install vitrualbox (google it, it takes 30 seconds) and you can install an x86 os in a matter of minutes. Virtualbox will allow
    access to your hatdware level sata controller and you can then run storage manager.

    i use this on a vmware esxi machine and have a guest x86 os just for monitoring my 6 channel adaptec host 2xraid 5over 6discs.

    for the record though, i agree, adaptec sata raid is imature at best.

  26. 26 Clive October 11, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Hey Mark.

    I know this is years and years after your post was written but just want to say that your colourful description about the red flashing warnings and Russian roulette, etc., was great – had me laughing out loud when I read it earlier today and experiencing a sense of relief that I am not the only one with those kinds of feelings when dealing with the Adaptec stuff!

    Your experiences apparently mirror those I’ve had whenever I’ve been forced into working with a 2410SA controller and related software in a server at a local school that I support. Today is the most recent (of about three) incidents over the last few years and it’s always the same kind of story. I end up googling all over the place for hours and hours trying to find some clear cut information to give me some confidence that I’m not about to choose the wrong option (which is how I’ve found your blog) but I never ever quite seem to reach that point. (And then, when the next issue arises a year or two later I pretty much have to start from scratch!)

    The controller I look after has a RAID 10 configuration and I’ve previously replaced two drives that had apparently failed. One of those efforts turned into a huge mission due to me (I think) going past one of those flashing red warnings when I shouldn’t have, although I can’t remember which one it was now. Maybe I initialised the new drive and then lost the entire array?

    Anyway, today’s adventures in Adaptec-2410SA-land started with an outwardly optimal array even though one drive apparently “failed” some weeks ago. However in this case I found a rescan brought it back from the dead but as it was one of the two original (very old) drives in the array I decided to bite the bullet anyway and buy two new drives in an attempt to short circuit any more serious real failures that might have been looming. However, when it came time to install them today I was filled with trepidation and wishing I’d let sleeping dogs lie. Still, to the best of my knowledge, the array is slowly rebuilding right now (albeit with only one new drive installed), but I still had a few heart-in-mouth moments along the way, not to mention additional tricks to perform first in order to configure the Hitachi SATA II drives to operate at SATA I speeds which in turn required installing them in another machine with a SATA II controller and running some software from Hitachi instead of simply being able to use a jumper as I’d been led to believe was possible when I bought the drives…

    Anyway, enough of the meaningless details, and thanks again for the laugh!

    Clive

  27. 27 Gunther May 22, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    I just built a mirror and installed the OS. Had a nagging feeling about the Quick Init I chose and found this: http://www.adaptec.com/blog/?p=741
    And after reading this blog I wonder whether I should use softraid instead…

  28. 28 jobern July 31, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    Nothing changed over the years with adaptec, now sitting with a raid5 setup where one HDD failed. Data is critical and there is no way of getting to it even if you replace the faulty drive. Tried initializing and rebuilding and so on and so on… So much for redundancy. The bios is absoloutely strange and unlogic. I am so angry at adaptec for building shit like this. Trust me choose other manufacturers, stay far clear of adaptec.

  29. 29 Tony August 13, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    Adaptec-2410SA with 2 hd Samsung F1 spinpoint 1TB, Raid1 (1tb avaliable space), perfect, 1 year working etx3 format, no problem at all iun server with linux zentyal. I tink limit is 1tb disks and 2tb for the array. I put it in 32 bit slot from the first day with a small aluminium cooler in the big chip (parity chip) with a egg rubber around the card and thermal cream betwn. Like that never hangs for thermal!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I think this cold be the problem, parity chip get twoo hot without cooler. Incredible 24h7 days a week……….server never stop. Thanks adaptec


  1. 1 mark++ » Blog Archive » New File Server Trackback on July 26, 2006 at 12:42 am
Comments are currently closed.




%d bloggers like this: