Promise SX6000, FreeBSD, and Linux

If you want to build a Linux or FreeBSD system around a RAID array, don’t use the Promise SuperTrak SX6000 controller. At least not for now.

The card used to work under Linux using the standard I2O drivers (i2o_block, etc.), but sometime last year Promise changed the firmware so that it no longer uses I2O. Now you’re stuck with Promise’s own driver, so if you want to use an old enough distribution* (say, Red Hat 7.3) that you can find a driver disk, or make your own driver disk, go ahead…but don’t expect to be able to upgrade it unless you can create a driver disk for the newer distro. This assumes the source code for the driver will work with recent 2.4 kernels—it won’t compile with 2.6. There has been talk of merging the pti_st driver into the kernel (fortunately it’s GPLed), but I can’t find anything more recent than August. Someday it might work again, but not today.

Now, FreeBSD is another matter. It has built-in drivers (pst), the installer will detect it automatically, and even let you install your entire system to it—without warning you that FreeBSD can’t boot from the SX6000. You can boot from another drive and interact with it once the system’s running, but you can’t put your entire system on the RAID array. (This information is not in the installer, not in the hardware notes, not in the driver man page. I only found the one 1½-year-old mailing list post by the driver’s author, and a bunch of “I don’t think it works” comments in other lists and forums.)

I hope this post will save someone a lot of frustration.

*Of the distributions for which Promise has provided driver disks, only one—SuSE 9.0—hasn’t already been retired.

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11 thoughts on “Promise SX6000, FreeBSD, and Linux

  1. billy

    i wish i would have found this before i bought the card and 6 320gig drives…may have to go with freebsd

    Reply
  2. billy

    I noticed this site gets a lot of traffic and wanted add a bit more information about the sx6000 card. I tried many distros with the sx6000 and had problems with most if not all. suse 9 claims to have support and even provides drivers for the card. I could NOT get the card to be recognized at bootup. The drivers loaded, kernel compiled, but no card. I tried both a fresh install with the card in. I also tried loadind the drivers post-install. Nothing. Also after reading many posts, this card and linux experience i/o speeds on par with carrier pigeons. So my recommendation would be to ditch this card and pick up a 3ware card. I just bought the 7506-8 and it’s been flawless. I’ve only had it up for a day, but speeds are on par with expectation. Also please note i have no affiliation with either 3ware or promise(and also have little linux knowledge for that matter)

    sorry to hijack this post

    good luck

    Reply
  3. Paul

    I have an sx6000 running on a redhat 9 machine. Its been problmatic at best. Overall I would recomend going for an SATA setup. The SATA RAID cards are a LOT faster than this card and a lot less of a pain to cable. I’m also betting that LaCie bigger disks are cheap enough that they could be used in software raid.
    Promiss has updated their site with redhat 9 drivers. I’m currently trying to install fedora core 3. I’ll try to rember to post an update on weither this was sucessfull or not.
    ~Paul

    Reply
  4. Frustrater

    And another victim of this card’s poor support for Linux. Debian Linux 3.1 with kernel 2.6 is a no-go either. Card doesn’t even shows up while trying to ‘lspci’.

    Reply
  5. John Jore

    I had this card in a windows machine, but one day the controller decided that two of the three disks in the RAID5 where not longer in use….

    After trying to re-create the RAID5 but not initialize the RAID, the controller “finds” the RAID5 again. However, on boot up the windows driver from Promise crashes windows… I was hopeing to save the data by using a linux driver, in the hope it might be more stable…. Guess i was wrong… very wrong…

    Best of luck to anyone out there with this card…

    JJ

    Reply
  6. Sascha

    This controller really is a pain in the ass!

    I nearly tried every linux-distribution, but it won’t run on any.
    Compiling….sorry…..TRYING to compile the drivers from Promise caused about hundreds of errors, because of corrupted makefiles.

    All in all:
    Supertrak Sx6000 and Linux won’t be friends at all. 🙁

    Reply
  7. Kelson Post author

    The Promise driver only works with the 2.4 kernel. This is a problem since most Linux distributions have moved on to the 2.6 kernel. You have to find something that’s old enough to use the right kernel, but new enough to still be supported.

    I actually managed to get CentOS 3 running on one of these by installing Red Hat 9 with the driver disk from Promise, installing the latest CentOS 3 kernel and source, compiling the driver, then using yum to upgrade the system to CentOS.

    Reply
  8. Sulla

    Hi all!

    I am another victim of this card. I bought it 4 years ago for windows where it sort-of worked. Well, it works flawlessly, but dead-slow. I have 3 Seagate Barracuda IV drives in a RAID 5 and get speeds in the order of 15MB/sec. 🙁

    Now I tried Linux on the machine: the driver form Promise won’t compile, because it thinks that my AMD64 processor does not support x86-64 commands. The driver is so old that it does not know 64bit processors.

    I tried it with Kubuntu 6.06 32bit, SUSE 10.1 64 bit and FC5 64 bit. Not a chance, neither do the i2o drivers work.

    Would it help to downgrade the controller to an older firmware? would the i2o drivers from the linux kernel work then??

    Greetinx, Sulla

    PS: I filed an error report to Promise USA, requesting an updated driver or an i2o compatible firmware. Lets see… (ha ha ha)

    Reply

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