Enhancing Mordor unRAID With IBM ServerRAID M1015

When I set up unRAID as a VM on Mordor ESXi host, I reviewed the available solutions for configuring data drives for use in unRAID. I reached the conclusion that the optimal solution would be to use VMDirectPath I/O to passthrough the disks directly to unRAID, but I could not accomplish that successfully, and settled on using Raw Device Mapping. But now I got the IBM ServerRAID M1015 PCI-Express card I purchased on eBay (also available from Amazon), and I’m all set to install it and upgrade my setup!

The loot:

The package included one IBM RAID Card, already cross-flashed to LSI-9210-8i IT firmware, and two SFF-8087-to-4-SATA cables (refer to the unRAID forums for more on LSI firmware versions and unRAID).

Following is a step-by-step procedure of a successful install.

Below it I go over possible pitfalls that I actually encountered, as a useful reference of what to avoid.

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Setting up unRAID as VM on Mordor

After installing VMware ESXi on Mordor, the next step in my Mordor 1.0 -> Mordor 2.0 project is to regain the basic Mordor 1.0 functionality based on a VM, AKA, set up an unRAID-powered-NAS.

In this post I document the details of my experience of setting up unRAID (version 5.0-beta12a) on my ESXi server (running version 5.1.0). I describe creating a VM on ESXi that boots from a physical USB flash drive (using Plop Boot Manager), my adventures with trying to passthrough the onboard SATA controller to the VM (spoiler: it failed), and other options for configuring the data drives for the VM (Raw Device Mapping, VMDirectPath I/O passthrough).

By far, the most useful resource that guided me in this process was the amazingly detailed documentation by the unRAID user Johnm in his ATLAS post in the Lime Tech forum. I have used guidance and tips from his post extensively, and will probably repeat some in this post.

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Installing VMware ESXi on Mordor

The first step in my Mordor 1.0 –> Mordor 2.0 project is installing VMware ESXi on the server, which I describe in detail in this post.

As I mentioned in the project page, Mordor: My Home Server, after having a dedicated unRAID server up and running for the last year or so, I wanted to better utilize all this hardware by turning it into a mean-VM-machine.

The game plan:

  1. Upgrade Mordor CPU to something more VM-server-worthy.
  2. Install VMware ESXi Hypervisor 5.1.0 on a USB flash drive.

Sounds simple, but the devil lies in the details…

Of course, before diving into tweaking and messing around with Mordor, I made a backup of unRAID, removed the unRAID USB flash drive from Mordor, and disconnected all the NAS data HDs.

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