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By | Chris Mellor 27th February 2009 12:34

IBM bricking Seagate SATA disks

BladeCenter and xSeries servers affected

Update IBM SATA drives in xSeries and BladeCenter servers can become bricks due to a firmware fault. A fix is expected later this quarter.

The IBM SATA drive hang or drive note states: "After a power cycle, the SATA drive is no longer available and becomes unresponsive. Data may become inaccessible due to the drive not responding."

The following SATA drives with firmware level BB10 are affected:

ST31000340NS
ST3250310NS
ST3500320NS
ST3750330NS

These are Seagate Barracuda internal drives in 250, 500, 750 or 1,000GB capacity levels, 'High-capacity, business-critical Tier 2 enterprise drives' according to Seagate's website (pdf).

Seagate 1TB Barracuda drive (7200.11 ST31000340AS with firmware level SD15) users have been affected by drive bricking problems, with an initial firmware fix failing to resolve the problem - some 500GB Barracudas (ST3500320AS) stopped working.

In the previous Barracuda bricking problem, data loss was not generally recorded, only data unavailability. However, IBM's note states "IBM strongly recommends applying the firmware update to prevent data loss and a hard drive that is no longer accessible", suggesting that data loss might occur.

IBM customers are advised to use IBM ServeRAID Manager, MegaRAID storage Manager, the hard disk drive update utility, the BIOS utility of hard disk controllers, or the label on hard disk drives' to determine their drive model and firmware.

The note goes on to state: "This rare condition is caused by a hard drive firmware issue that allows the drive's 'event log' pointer to be set to an invalid location. This condition is detected by the drive during power up, and the drive goes in to failsafe mode to prevent inadvertent corruption to or loss of user data. As a result, once the failure has occurred user data becomes inaccessible.

"The condition only occurs after a power cycle and not during runtime. Therefore, avoiding or minimizing power cycles will greatly reduce the chances of SATA drives becoming inoperable after a power cycle."

In other words, if you have an affected system, leave it running and don't switch it off. If the affected drive is the boot drive on the xServer or BladeCenter, then advice about what to do is absent from IBM's note - but it looks as if your xServer will become an ex-server and your blades will be buggered.

Update

An IBM spokesperson said: "This is an issue impacting vendors of some of Seagate's SATA drives, which Seagate first reported in mid-January. It's appeared in a number of news outlets. It is a rare condition, although one that could potentially impact a small percentage of customers. In limited circumstances, the SATA drive may not be properly accessed on power up causing data to become inaccessible, although not lost."

A Seagate spokesperson confirmed that this is a fresh example of the original problem: "This is old news, and ... there is no data loss associated with this issue."

The original issue affected Seagate's desktop Barracuda drives, the -AS models. It's now clear that it affects the Barracuda enterprise drives as well, the -NS models. Customers of all vendors using these drives should check to see if they are in the firing line for the fault condition to affect them. ®

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