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By | Austin Modine 10th February 2010 22:31

Dell servers block un-Dell HDDs

No more warnings

Dell is barring the use of non-Dell-qualified hard drives on its newest PowerEdge servers, after years of allowing such drives to be installed with only a warning.

Yesterday, the company confirmed the change on a mailing list run by the Dell Linux Engineering team.

On the mailing list, a poster asked why his 11th generation Dell PowerEdge server - a R710 with H700 PowerEdge RAID controller (PERC) - had "blocked" non-qualified hard drives he attempted to install, preventing them from operating.

Dell's senior storage product manager Howard Shoobe then responded to the post, explaining that with its latest batch of storage kit, Dell has cracked down on HDDs not qualified by Dell:

It is common practice in enterprise storage solutions to limit drive support to only those drives which have been qualified by the vendor. In the case of Dell's PERC RAID controllers, we began informing customers when a non-Dell drive was detected with the introduction of PERC5 RAID controllers in early 2006. With the introduction of the PERC H700/H800 controllers, we began enabling only the use of Dell qualified drives.

Note the creative use of the word "enabling" to explain a change that disables.

"There are a number of benefits for using Dell qualified drives in particular ensuring a positive experience and protecting our data," he went on to say.

It's unclear whether his description of customer's data as "our data" was a merely a typo or a Freudian slip.

The blocking of non-qualified hard drives may be common practice among major vendors, and Dell does have a legitimate concern for providing a high level of quality control with its data center kit, but why shouldn't the decision and risk be left to the paying customer? It is their data, after all. Not Dell's.

Some Reg readers who pointed us to the discussion also note that the change benefits Dell in forcing customers to buy branded drives with a high markup price.

Dell has not yet answered questions regarding its HDD policy change. ®

Update

A Dell storage spokesman responded to our request for comment late Wednesday via email:

As storage controllers become more complex and capable, the differences in HDD implementation can have a significant impact on data integrity. We made this decision for our higher-end storage controllers to help customers better protect their data while also helping improve data availability. As you point out this is a common practice for enterprise storage solutions, and for good reason. By ensuring that certain HDDs have been tested and qualified with Dell storage controllers, our intent is to deliver the best possible enterprise experience.

He also claims Shoobe's use of our data was "most definitely" a typo.

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