mini-PCI eSATA cards and Solaris 11

Problem: how to expand storage in a budget Solaris server.

Solution: add an eSATA card and attach a multiple-bay enclosure; the only prerequisites are for the card to be (a) supported natively, (b) affordable and (c) be compatible with port-multiplication.

Surprisingly, this was not a trivial task. Affordable (i.e. < €50) cards are abundant these days, but when it comes to Solaris derivatives one must look back to the chipsets that were introduced quite some time ago.

Luckily, these are ubiquitous and cheap (<€25), but the port-multiplication feature is not offered by all. Based on my research, here are the options:

Si3132-based cards – quite compatible, they are recognized out-of-the-box. It is necessary to flash their ROM with the non-RAID BIOS in order for Solaris to handle the ports. However, the “si3124” driver that is attached by Solaris does NOT offer port-multiplication.

Marvell-chipset cards – apparently not supported/recognized.

JMicron chipset (JMB363) – they work, offering native AHCI support as well as port-multiplication using the built-in “ahci” driver! Their BIOS, however, is designed for RAID functions and should be disabled by the following method:

– go to http://www.station-drivers.com/page/jmicron.htm

– download the “Flash Rom pour chipset JMB-36x (Rom Update) Version 1.21” (or newer) and copy the ROM updater to a DOS-bootable USB flash disk; there is no need to download the actual BIOS image, as we plan to erase the card

– run the flasher with the “erase” argument; this looks something like:

36xupd /e s

(don’t know what “s” stands for)

Anyways, by erasing their BIOS I was able to hook up this puppy to my Solaris server and attach a LianLi 5-bay enclosure which was picked up right away. The Device Driver Utility lists the card with the native “ahci” driver, which is also very good.

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