Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Update on iSCSI Target via Desktop Hardware

A while back we published that we were testing a desktop board with Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard as a possible configuration to utilize the two eSATA and two USB 3.0 ports.

Here we are almost two weeks later with the setup providing backup targets for a number of different physical and virtual machines and things are moving along though not perfectly.

We had one NexStar USB 3.0 dock connected to a Vantec USB 3.0 hub which then connected to the USB 3.0 port on the motherboard and the other dock connected directly to a USB 3.0 port on the motherboard.

We set things up this way because there is some sort of conflict between the Vantec NexStar USB 3.0 hard drive dock and the USB 3.0 ports on the DQ67xx series Intel Desktop Boards (we have seen this with both DQ67SW and DQ67EP boards).

After our break this last weekend we came back to two of the four drives connected to the box being offline. We had moved things around prior to leaving to free up some space on the workbench however the connections were still online before we left.

The two drives that were offline were in one USB 3.0 dock and one eSATA dock. So, we could not pin the problem on either port set.

The eSATA drive turned out to be a cable that was not sitting quite right in the dock. Once the cable was pulled and re-seated at both ends the drive came online without a hitch.

The USB 3.0 drive however turned out to be the dock and the motherboard not playing nice anymore. We re-seated the cable with nothing happening. We power cycled the dock and sure enough the drive came online . . . and then it went offline, and then on, and then off, and so on.

Once we plugged the dock into the USB 3.0 hub that the other dock was already connected to the drive came online.

So, it is looking like while this setup may have been a good idea on paper the actual implementation is having poor results.

Now the kicker, we purchased a StarTech PEXUSB3S2 card (product site) as we had seen mention of the card being compatible with Windows Server 2008 RTM/R2.


The card arrived and we downloaded the driver:


It looks to be based on the same chip providing USB 3.0 connectivity on the Intel boards. :(

We will still plug the card in and run some tests with it on an actual server configuration. At least we can confirm that the NexStar USB 3.0 drive docks behave the same way when directly plugged into the card as far as the drive coming online and going offline in cycles.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

*Our original iMac was stolen (previous blog post). We now have a new MacBook Pro courtesy of Vlad Mazek, owner of OWN.

Windows Live Writer


Chris Knight said...

The promise of USB 3.0 for quicker backups on servers is promising, but the reality is proving that it's horribly underwhelming.

After much nashing of teeth, wailing and tearing hair out I'm of the opinion that I'll wait until I see USB 3.0 controllers embedded on server boards and some enclosures from reputable companies, not some wannabe players from the Asian region.

Philip Elder SBS MVP said...


The StarTech PEXUSB3S2 has actually worked out quite well in our E3 based servers.

Though I am having a struggle with an R1304BTLSHBN that is not related to the card ... I think.

We have passed huge amounts of data via clustered VMs being backed up to a StarTech 4 bay USB 3 drive dock with no issues.