Promise Raid cards?

Yes the saga continues, only 4 years later. A few years ago we dabbled with promise cards. A) they were cost effective, B) they apparently had a good feature set and C) Our vendor at the time recommended them.  Long story short, they sucked. We used the TX2300 I think then. Over the past while we’ve been using another vendor that is local to us instead of just using Dell and HP so we can diversify. They were raving about the new Ex series of cards so we got an Ex8350 card off them and put it into a quad core server with plenty of ram etc.

Initial findings:

Redhat EL 4U4 supports the card. Yaay. However the kernel on the install cd didn’t. Promise had no driver for U4. We contact redhat, follow instructions, nothing. Redhat come back at 09:06 the following morning with a new driver disk that is untested, but hey it worked! Horray. Installed RHEL 4, upgraded to latest redhat kernel and all looked great.

The card performed quite well during initial testing. Compile times were up on other systems and uncompressing tar.gz files etc was very quick. I wasn’t sure if this was the quad core or the raid card/disk performance but I gave the raid card the benefit of the doubt.

Things started to get a bit hairy after 2 weeks or so. The server was our latest shared hosting box, which is a beast in comparison to some of the older machines with 4 cores on the cpu. It started showing high load averages even when it wasn’t particularly busy. A closer look and see a huge amount of IO wait. I think nothing off it but keep an eye on the server. Last friday it had a serious brain fart, a simple untar job of a 200mb file brought the load to over 200 and poor Niall had to look after it.

Another week has passed and it has another brain fart, this time input/output errors for almost all binaries on the file system. Now this brings back vivid memories of our first ever shared server from years ago with the card in it that I mention above. So Promise cards suck. Redhat support is second to none. Infact Redhat are bloody brilliant, never has a vendor been so usefull or quick to help me out on an issue before.

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