Wednesday, December 11, 2013

May the Dell PERC H310 RAID Controller Burn in Hell

Aaaah Dell.

Reasonable prices - and that's it.

I've recently been handling a purchase of gear from Dell for a fitout and although their pricing is good their sales staff are annoying as ever.

After requesting a quote with no indication I was ready to proceed I received twice daily phone calls for a fortnight.


Once a week? Yes.
Twice a week? Maybe.
Twice a day? F off.

Anyway, in the order was an R420 server.

My contact "Harry" tried to McDonalds me and upsell me on parts here there and everywhere.

But there's one part he didn't try to upsell me on that actually effing matters.

Most Dell servers come with a RAID controller model called the PERC H310.

If you're like me, you probably thought, great - it's got a hardware RAID controller.

Well here's the thing.
This model of RAID controller has no cache.

In RAID controller land that renders the device 100% rubbish.

In real world terms, it means instead of getting read and write speeds that your disks are actually capable of you will get speeds of 5 - 10 MB/s.

Yes - you read correctly.

You are now going to be experiencing HDD performance in your server comparable to that of a HDD from the early to mid 90s.

All because Dell has the nerve to sell a controller that simply shouldn't exist.

The fix is simple - upgrade to an H710P controller which has 1GB RAM for ~$500 at the time of ordering.

This controller makes your drives perform as intended and adds a feature called CacheCade which lets you use an SSD as cache (note - buy a 2RU server with 8 3.5" slots so you have room for mechanical drives and SSDs).

They also make a model called the H710 which only has 512MB RAM and no support for CacheCade.

Don't really know why they bothered with that model to be honest...

The reason I recommend the H710P is because it comes in the proprietary card form factor so it won't eat up one of your very limited number of spare PCI Express slots.

Now - having said all that.

The reason for purchasing the Dell server in the first place was that it was rack mountable and it includes a 3 year warranty.

That's all very well and good, but here's something for nothing.
Dell (and pretty much every other vendor) suck to deal with.

Poor language skills, annoying sales staff, screwed up deliveries.

If I was doing this all again, I'd build it myself.
Simple as that.

Cost wise it probably works out about the same for the hardware and realistically the extra money you pay for the three year warranty probably works out covering the small percentage of parts that may (or may not) pack it in within the next three years.

But you know what? I think I'm happy with that.
Shit breaks.
It happens.

Unless you have a catastrophic failure where all server components pack it in (in which case I can guarantee you the warranty claim will be a fight), it works out much of a muchness without all the hassle that dealing with a vendor is supposed to alleviate.

<--- End of Rant --->


  1. Thank you for this post. A quick google search brought it up and explained the horrible writes we just experienced to a R550 turned NAS.. We left the 310 in there... Will be buying a 710 to plop in shortly! Thanks!

  2. Thank you indeed ScubaSteve, you (and your silent partner Google) make the world a better place. As a software person with no time for learning much about hardware (yet with the responsibility for making purchases) you've saved me from a mistake. Although I think the fumes from all those burning H310 controllers may be making me a bit light headed...are you sure burning them in Hell has been vetted by Health & Safety?