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Connecting an Apple Xserve RAID to Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3.0

The Apple Xserve RAID is an inexpensive way to add approximately 2 TB of RAID 5-protected storage to your Linux boxes. Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3.0 comes with all the drivers and software you will need to connect and use the array with the Apple Fibre Channel PCI card.

Apple provides support for the Xserve RAID under Mac OS X, as well as hardware support for the device. If you choose to use the Xserve RAID on unsupported OSes you should make sure you are comfortable supporting it yourself. You will also probably want a Mac around to configure the array, as the software only ships for Mac OS X.

  1. Buy an Apple Xserve RAID. :-) Get the Apple Fibre Channel PCI Card, which is actually an LSI fibre channel card with no GBICs in it.

  2. Install the Apple Fibre Channel PCI Card in your host. You cannot disable the BIOS on this card, so make sure that your boot order is correct afterwards. On my test system I had to invert my SCSI card and the LSI card in the PCI slots so that the SCSI was seen first. This is standard PC operation, so if you are a Windows/Linux/*BSD user you are probably used to it already.

  3. If you have Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3.0 installed already, you will need to add lines to /etc/modules.conf:

    alias scsi_hostadapter1 mptbase
    alias scsi_hostadapter2 mptscsih

    Make sure these are in the right order for Linux -- if you want the Xserve RAID to show up after your other storage place them after those lines. You need both of those lines, in that order: mptbase is the basic card driver, mptscsih implements SCSI for both channels of the card.

    You will need to rebuild your initial RAM disk then. Substitute your kernel version for the "2.4.21E.27:"

    mkinitrd /boot/mpt.img 2.4.21E.27

    Edit /etc/grub.conf and make a new entry for the new kernel & RAM disk combination. Do not make it the default until you know it works. :-)

    If you installed RHEL 3.0 with the LSI card installed you may or may not already have a working system. If not, tinker with modules.conf until you get what you like.

  4. Reboot and use the new kernel. You should see the arrays as /dev/sdX, where X is some letter. You can use fdisk on them, or make them part of a volume group.

As you can see, this process is not hard at all. Have fun!

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