My storage server has been stuck at 8 hard drives for awhile as my current motherboard only had 8 SATA II ports on board. While I picked up this board specifically for the 8 SATA II ports to help make the board last as long as possible, it is time to start looking for potential expansion solutions.

In my search I found that SAS / SATA controllers are more expensive than I would have hoped, so I went looking for more affordable solutions. LSI boards tend to be highly recommended as they have excellent support in both Linux and Windows.

I came across the IBM m1015, which is a rebadged LSI 9211-8i (technically labeled as a LSI 9220-8i), which comes highly reviewed. I picked one up about two weeks ago, but it has been sitting in a box since then as I needed some 8087 to SATA breakout cables.

These cards can be picked up for ridiculously cheap ($65 – $80) on eBay, compared to the LSI 9211-8i which retails for nearly $250. In fact, you can even flash the m1015 directly with the LSI 9211-IT firmware, which is recommended if you want to use the card in Initiator-Target (IT) mode.

This worked out well for me, as the first time I tried the card in its default integrated RAID (IR) mode I found that my system couldn’t even boot fully. I was able to get into the cards BIOS, but if I let the system boot I was greeted with the following message:

“No physical memory is available at the location required for the Windows Boot Manager. The system can not continue.”

Unfortunately, I found out that Gigabyte motherboards are notorious for not playing nice with RAID controllers. Specifically, they do not allocate memory to the main PCIe slot, which causes the above error.

Luckily, since the m1015 can be flashed directly with the LSI 9211′s firmware, you can choose the alternate IT firmware, which resolves the problem. Luckily the desktops at work are able to boot this card successfully, and Justin let me use his USB stick that he already had bootable into MS-DOS (well, FreeDOS specifically).

Flashing the firmware is easy, download this file, and use the following steps:

megarec -writesbr 0 sbrempty.bin
megarec -cleanflash 0
<reboot, back to USB stick >
sas2flsh -o -f 2118it.bin -b mptsas2.rom
# sas2flsh -o -f 2118it.bin # (if OptionROM is not needed)
sas2flsh -o -sasadd 500605bxxxxxxxxx (x= numbers for SAS address)

In my case, I chose not to install the mptsas2.rom, which makes drives bootable. By leaving this out, it actually allows you to skip the boot check of the card which allows faster boot times.

All went well. I installed the flashed m1015 this morning and the card booted up just fine. Installed the LSI SAS 9211-8i drivers, and the card was recognized by Server 2008!

At this point, I now have two additional SATA drive spots available to me. I have a couple spare 1TB drives that I’m not actively using, I might have to add these into my WHS pool now. But it’s nice knowing that I can easily expand up to 15 internal drives + 1 eSATA now, without having to do any other upgrades.


One Response to “LSI 9211-8i / m1015 SAS Controller”

  1. Home NAS Upgrade Planning : dsu | Mike on September 9th, 2012 1:51 pm

    [...] together back in August of 2008. Over the years I have added hard drives, 5-in-3 expansion bays, SAS/SATA Cards, and even upgraded the CPU/RAM, but essentially it’s still a 4 year old system — and [...]

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