Adaptec 31205 under Debian

We have a Storage Server with 11 2tb drives in a Raid5. During a recent visit, we heard the alarm, but, no red light on any drive was visible nor was the light on the front of the chassis lit. Knowing it was a problem waiting to happen, but, without being able to see which drive had caused the array to fail, we scheduled a maintenance window that happened to coincide with a kernel upgrade.

In the meantime, we attempted to install the RPM and java management system to no avail. So, we weren’t able to read the controller status to find out what the problem was.

When we rebooted the machine, the array status was degraded and it prompted us to hit enter to accept the configuration or control-A to enter the admin. We entered the admin, Manage array, all drives are present and working. Immediately the array status changes to rebuilding with no indication which drive had failed and was being readded.

Exiting the admin, saving the config, the client said, pull the machine offline until it is fixed. This started what seemed like an endless process. We figured we would let it rebuild while it was online, but, disable it from the cluster. We installed a new kernel, 2.6.36-rc5, rebooted and this is where the trouble started. On boot, the new kernel got an I/O error, the channel hung, it forced a reset and then sat there for about 45 seconds. After it continued, it paniced as it was unable to read /dev/sda1.

Rebooting and entering the admin, we’re faced with an array that is marked offline. After identifying each of the drives through disk utils to make sure that they are recognized, we forced the array back online and rebooted into the old kernel. As it turns out, something in our 2.6.36-rc5 disables the array and sets it offline. It takes 18 hours to rebuild the array and return it to optimal status.

After the machine comes up, we knew we had a problem on one of the directories on the system and this seemed like an opportune time to run xfs_repair. About 40 minutes into it, we run into an I/O error with a huge block number and bam, the array is offline again.

In Disk Util in the ROM we start the test on the first drive. It takes 5.5 hours to run through the first disk which puts us at an estimated 60+ hours to check all 11 drives in the array. smartctl doesn’t allow us to independently check the drives, so, we fire up a second machine and mount each of the drives looking for any possible telltale signs in the S.M.A.R.T. data stored on the drives. Two drives show some abnormal numbers and we have an estimated 11 hours to check those disks. 5.5 hours later, the first disk is clean, less than 30 minutes later, we have our culprit. Relocating a number of bad sectors results in the controller hanging again, yet, no red fault light anywhere to be seen, no indication in the Adaptec manager that this drive is bad.

Replacing the drive and going back into the admin shows us a greyed out drive which immediately starts reconstructing. We reboot the system into the older kernel and start xfs_repair again. After two hours, it has run into a number of errors, but no I/O Errors.

It is obvious we’ve had some corruption for quite some time. We had a directory we couldn’t delete because it claimed it had files, however, no files were in the directory. We had 2 directories with files that we couldn’t do anything with and couldn’t even mv them to an area outside our working directories. We figured it was an xfs bug that we had hit due to the 18 terabyte size of the partition, but guessed that an xfs_repair would fix this. It was a minor annoyance to the client until we could get to a maintenance interval so we waited. In reality, this should have been a sign that we had some issues and we should have pushed the client harder to allow us to diagnose this much earlier. There is some data corruption, but, this is the second in a pair of backup servers for their cluster. Resyncing the data to a known good source will fix this without too much difficulty.

After four hours, xfs_repair is reporting issues like:

bad directory block magic # 0 in block 0 for directory inode 21491241467
corrupt block 0 in directory inode 21491241467
        will junk block
no . entry for directory 21491241467
no .. entry for directory 21491241467
problem with directory contents in inode 21491241467
cleared inode 21491241467
        - agno = 6
        - agno = 7
        - agno = 8
bad directory block magic # 0 in block 1947 for directory inode 34377945042
corrupt block 1947 in directory inode 34377945042
        will junk block
bad directory block magic # 0 in block 1129 for directory inode 34973370147
corrupt block 1129 in directory inode 34973370147
        will junk block
bad directory block magic # 0 in block 3175 for directory inode 34973370147
corrupt block 3175 in directory inode 34973370147
        will junk block

It appears that we have quite a bit of data corruption due to a bad drive which is precisely why we use Raid.

The array failed, why didn’t the Adaptec on-board manager know which drive had failed? Had we gotten the Java application to run, I’m still not convinced it would have told us which drive was throwing the array into degraded status. Obviously the card knew something was wrong as the alarm was on. Each drive has a fault light and an activity light, but, all of the drives allowed the array to be rebuilt and claimed the status was Optimal. During initialization, the Adaptec does light the fault and activity lights for each drive so it seems reasonable that when the drive encountered errors, it could have lit the fault light so we knew which drive to replace. When running xfs_repair and receiving the I/O error where it couldn’t relocate the block, why didn’t the Adaptec controller immediately fail the drive?

All in all, I’m not too happy with Adaptec right now. A 2tb hard drive failed which cost us roughly 60 hours to diagnose and put back into service. The failing drive should have been tagged and removed from the raid set immediately and marked. As it is right now, even though it was running in degraded mode, we shouldn’t have seen any corruption, however, xfs_repair is finding a considerable number of errors.

The drives report roughly 5600 hours online which corresponds to the eight months we’ve had the machine online and based on the number of files xfs_repair is finding are bad, I believe that drive had been failing for quite some time and Adaptec has failed us. While we have a considerable number of Adaptec controllers, we’ve never seen a failure like this.

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4 Responses to “Adaptec 31205 under Debian”

  1. cd34 Says:

    After 17 hours, xfs_repair finished running.

    /lost+found# ls|wc -l

    leaving fewer than half of the files intact.

    The machine is back online, but, I have serious doubts about the continued integrity of the system. We’ll run it for another 30 days and do another detailed check. The other duplicate system hasn’t shown any problems, but, this machine didn’t show any issues either. After this one is fully up, we’ll run an xfs_check on the other one.

  2. cd34 Says:

    The system faulted again this morning and the array was taken offline. This time upon reboot and going into the admin, Channel 0, drive 3 was marked as missing. This is actually the same position that the faulty drive was last time. Reseating the drive allows the card to identify it, but, it will not put it back into the array. At this point I suspect either the channel or the SATA cable. At this point, I’m still very unimpressed by this particular card.

  3. cd34 Says:

    12 hours later, xfs_repair finished.

    lost+found# ls|wc -l

    Another few hours of deletions, another xfs_repair just to make sure and we’ll see. Right now I think it is either that channel, or, the SATA cable that connects the card to the backplane. I’ve doublechecked the backplane by moving the interface cable and the drive still faulted. Using a different drive on that same channel resulted in a fault as well. We’re going to use Channel 3, device 3 now to see if it is the backplane.

  4. cd34 Says:

    Western Digital sent two new drives to replace the ones we sent in. We powered down the server, inserted the drive, rebooted the machine and went into the admin. It immediately recognized the drive and started reconstructing. When the kernel booted, two IO errors and the array went offline. Roughly 20 minutes of power cycling, resetting, control-alt-delete before we could get all of the drives recognized in the Drive Scan, we forced the array online at which point we could boot. It has been online now 27 hours, reconstruction finished and everything appears to be running fine.

    I can’t say that I’d ever buy another Adaptec 31205 as it really does not handle failures well. We thought the drives may not have been getting enough power, but, we double checked the power rails and even in the admin, the Drive Scan always saw all of the drives. Just that the raid set didn’t always see each of the drives.

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