Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Areca 1880ix-12 Can Overheat in a Dell T710 Chassis

While the Areca 1880x-12 doesn't come with any fans mounted on it's heat-syncs, you may need them.

Areca 1880ix-12

I just overheated one of my Areca 1880ix-12 cards the other night during a rather long 26 disk ZFS copy.

I had the card installed in my Dell T710 4U server, which is located in an air-contioned data cetre, properly rack-mounted, covers on, etc. so the case is able to breathe properly, and ambient temp is maintained at 21 Deg C. The card is mounted with a free slot behind and in front of it, so it's got room for air to move around it.

Dell T610's and 710's use shrouds to direct air over the memory and CPU, but leave the PCIe slots to fend for themselves. As I'm learning, it may be an issue for high performance cards installed in the PCIe slots.

Dell T710 Chassis, with shroud

Normally, I add additional cooling to any heatsync that is uncomfortable to the touch, a trick that has kept hardware failures to a minimum in my servers. Since this was still a fairly new build that was being worked on frequently, I hadn't bothered hooking anything up.

The failure happend overnight when I let my 26 disk ZFS array copy 6-7 TB of data from one location in ZFS space to another.

When I returned in the morning, I found the ZFS copy was hung, Solaris was cranky because it didn't think it had any disks, but was running.

I had left the Areca 1880's Raid Storage Manager web page up during the copy, luckily on the Hardware Monitor page, which auto-refreshes to keep the stats up-to-date. The displayed temprature was 79 Deg C for the CPU controller, the highest I've seen yet.

I couldn't manouver in the web console, and was forced to reboot. Upon reboot, the card wouldn't detect any drives. I powered down, and started a physical check. The heatsyncs were extremely hot to the touch.

After letting it cool properly, I was able to boot up without issue, detect drives, and check my ZFS array. Of course, it was fine - ZFS is hard to kill, even with a controller failure of this magnitude.

I installed a quick-fix - an 80 MM case fan blowing directly on the heatsyncs of the Areca. I then powered back up and started the same copy again. This time, I watched it closely - My CPU temp never rose above 51 Deg C, and the copy completed in 7.5 hours.

I've contacted Areca Support, and they confirm that the Areca CPU has a max temp of 90 Deg C, so I should be okay under this temp.

It's quite possible that my Areca CPU hit a much higher temp than 79 Deg C - That's the last value displayed on my web console, but there is no guarentee that the web page didn't time out or update in time before the final lockup.

Video card coolers are probably the best fix for this. I'll either use one that takes up an expansion slot and draws it's air from the rear of the chassis blowing it on the card, or mount some smaller slim video card coolers on the heat syncs.


  1. What additional cooling would you recommend for 1880ix? Does it have on-board power connectors for extra fan - and what should be the fan size and CFM rating in your view?

  2. So far, it's working great with a simple 80mm case box fan placed between the two heat-syncs of the Areca card.

    I'm probably going to try and mount a 120mm case fan on top of the card (perpendicular) blowing downwards to give better air flow, but for now it's working great.

    This is a standard little 2500-3500 RPM case fan with a LP4 connector I hooked into a spare power connector on the Dell, nothing fancy, but it works.

  3. Hey, I know this isn't related to the post, but what kind of speed are you getting out of this controller on what disks?

  4. Hi Lewis,

    I don't have specs handy, although I'm sure I did make performance recordings someplace. In fact, I know I did when I was comparing SAS drives - I also included my 1.5 TB Seagate drive as a reference point. Stay tuned, I'll try and dig them up for a post.