Some questions about hba/raid vs onboard controller


Aug 4, 2011
I have just finished setting up a esxi whitebox. Hardware below;

Asus m4a89td-pro-usb
8gb ram - soon to be upgraded to 12gb
dell sas 6/ir hba
7x hdd (6x 2tb for zfs raidz2 / 1x 320gb esxi + vm)

My problem is the dell sas 6/ir (lsi 1068e). This card will not support drive capacities larger than 2tb. Since I plan to upgrade down the track by expanding harddrive capacity this sas hba is not going to be very useful for the long term.

What I propose is to passthrough the onboard sata controller (amd sb850) to openindiana vm and then create a zfs raidz2 pool from the attached 6x 2tb harddrives. I will then connect 2x 2.5" 320gb harddrives to the dell sas 6 and configure this as raid1 (mirror). I will set this to boot. I realize this card does not have battery backup but the system is connected to a ups. Will this be ok? The card has hardware raid so it should work with esxi? will it also support reporting in esxi?

And can a sata cdrom drive be connected to the dell sas 6? and boot priority set? (as can be done on the mainboard bios)

Basically i need to swap the controllers. The duties performed by the onboard controller will now need to be carried out by the sas hba and visa versa. It seems to be a good solution as doing this means I gain hardware raid and don't have hdd capacity limitations.

Does this sound feasible?
Need to check the esxi hcl to see if the hba is supported. If it is, you should be fine - esxi caches all the config stuff in RAM. The only VM that will be on that disk is the OI VM, and you can save that VM's VHD somewhere safe in case you need to reboot from scratch. No idea about the sata cdrom - give it a try?
Im happy to report that it worked!

I configured the dell 6i/r to raid1 and installed esxi + used this for vm datastore.

I then passed through the amd sb850 onboard controller (ahci mode). esxi only recognised the controller as sb700. I was then able to use the 6 drives attached to this controller and configure a raidz2 vdev via openindiana vm.

The sata cd drive was not recognised when connected to the hba. I just ended up using a usb to sata adapter to connect the cd drive.

Does anyone know if esxi can report the status of the raid1 (dell sas)? ie if the raid config was degraded can the system provide notification?
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ESXI should show the status of the perc 6i under the admin tool. It should show it under the host configuration somewhere. I do not recall exactly, but it was the page where you can see temperatures and status of any installed device.
I found a guide on how to have esxi5 display health status for the dell perc 6/i..

but my card is a dell 6/ir (not perc). I can't find anything that regarding this.
The 6/ir is a different chip, and might not support those features in ESXi.
The Dell sas 6/ir is on the VMware HCL. link

esxi 5 installed with the correct drivers and everything works - but I have no health status.
Dell do have a vib available but its only for esxi 4.1

-Dell OpenManage offline bundle for VMware ESXi 4.1 U1

How different are the two esxi versions? Is it possible the above vib would work in esxi 5?

Failing that, if my raid1 has any issues is there anyway that I can be notified or check the status without powering the pc down and watching post?

My concern is down the track the mirror might become degraded but I won't know about it until its to late.