Monday, November 24, 2014

Making Intel 910 PCIe SSD bootable

Recently market has been flooded with 400GB and 800GB versions of Intel 910 Enterprise PCIe SSD priced just one tenth of original cost. Downside of this device is its inability to boot requiring separate SSD for system files and software RAID0 support from OS. Both obvious downsides for my intended use with ESXi.


Since internally it's nothing but LSI SAS2008 with two (400GB) or four (800GB) Intel 200GB SSDs you can simply flash card with new firmware to make it bootable. Downside is that you can kiss goodbye that 5 year Intel enterprise warranty. RAID0 implemented on SAS2008 hardware will also be somewhat slower than software RAID0 which might be original reason Intel decided to not offer bootbios and hardware RAID.

You'll want some old PC to do this as lack of "BIOS32" whatever it is and presence of EFI will cause problems with newer motherboards.

Start by backing up current flash (using SAS2FLSH.EXE) and SBR (with MEGAREC.EXE), parameters you're interested are -o, -umpb, -ubios, -unvdata, -ufwbackup, -ufirmware, -uflash and -readsbr. I'm skipping this part, but you shouldn't.

You can get firmware and BIOS P20 from LSI website (9211_8i_Package_P20_IR_IT_Firmware_BIOS_for_MSDOS_Windows). Megarec and sbrempty are same as you use when de-branding IBM, Dell etc. OEM LSI cards.

# Erase flash
megarec -cleanflash 0

# Write empty SBR
megarec -writesbr 0 sbrempty.bin

# Write latest 9211-8i firmware and MPT BIOS
sas2flsh -o -f 2118ir.bin -b mpt2sas.rom

# Set SAS address to something random
sas2flsh -o -sasadd 500605b0deadbabe

Boot and create RAID0 volume using SSD modules with SAS ID's 0, 3, 5 and 7. Rest are duplicates, perhaps SSD modules are actually dual ported SAS rathern than SATA like everyone assumes. They're also detected as SAS-SSD by LSI (Avago) MPT BIOS.

12 comments:

  1. Thanks mate!

    Guide worked as intended, had to do sas2flash in EFI shell, but apart from that everything meni kuin strömsössä

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi,
    What performance is more effective in %?
    1.To make Intel 910 PCIe SSD bootable and to use it for windows, apps and games
    or
    2.To have some “normal” Intel 520 SSD for windows only and Intel 910 PCIe SSD soft RAIDed for apps and games

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i like to get the answert aswell

      Delete
    2. The Intel 910 has extremely weak performance at low queue depths and low I/O transer sizes like 4KB and below.
      So the Intel 520 will probably be faster for use as a Windows system drive.
      Certainly running Windows 10 on my 800GB Intel 910 feels very slow at times!

      Delete
  3. Thanks. Works great. Didn't experience much of a slowdown.
    Smal note: "sas2flsh -o -f 2118ir.bin -b mpt2sas.rom" should be "sas2flsh -o -f 2118ir.bin -b mptsas2.rom"

    ReplyDelete
  4. I made my Intel 910 SSD 400GB bootable, thank you.
    Now I have Windows 8.1 installed on 200 GB and one more 200 GB disk.
    It happened because I cannot reach Avago Config Utility – I see this utility on my screen, but nothing happened when I try to use my wireless keyboard. I tried also the old one with special keyboard connector – same result. Is there some trick to operate Avago Config Utility by keyboard?
    And one more question. In my present configuration 200/200 I have read/write speed only about 500/400 MB/s. What is the reason of it – wrong configuration or something else?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The speed is due to the fact that you are only using one SSD of the SSD's in your Intel 910.
      The second part of the guide above is what creates the RAID and gets the performance up to correct levels.
      As the drive comes from Intel without firmware modifications described here you also have to make a RAID-0 to achieve full performance...
      So connect a working keyboard up and do that and you should be all set :)

      Delete
  5. Question: So Intel 910 SSD 400GB doesn't work with ESXi? I planned to use it as my VM image drive due to it's speed...

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  6. hello,

    Just own a 910 @ good price and want to make it bootable.
    The process seems easy but as I want to make a good backup of intel original firmware/bios/SBR, I really don't know the command line needed. is sommeone can help me ?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Works fine. Not very hard. But likely needs a reboot between erasing the flash and writing new firmware. At least this was the case for me.

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  8. Backup current firmware:
    sas2flash_x86.exe -ufirmware Fwbackup.fw
    sas2flash_x86.exe -ubios Biosbackup.rom

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  9. Hello ... do you have an original bios ???

    ReplyDelete

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