What's new

Intel SS4200-E Lives Again

swechsler

Occasional Visitor
Hi folks, just wanted to keep this thread alive. I have two of these SS4200s, one an Intel. Got it when it first went out of production, set it up with 4x2TB drives and it worked but kept crashing every night. Opened up a support ticket with Intel but they never figured it out and because the maximum officially supported drive size was 1TB, I figured that they'd claim that was the reason and that would be the end of it. I eventually put it away after the repeated crashing corrupted the filesystem. Fast forward a few years later and I dug it out of the closet, started it up with a video card attached to the PCIe bus (you need a flexible PCIe extension to do that, which you can get on eBay for a few bucks) and a keyboard on the USB port. Was able to log in to the console and run a filesystem repair, then figured "why not" and replaced the DIMM. That original DIMM was apparently the reason for those nightly crashes, since it has rarely crashed in the last 4 years it's been running.

The second SS4200 is a Fujitsu that I bought a few months after the original system, but never actually set it up. I'm currently working on getting it set up to run OpenMediaVault, but my original flex PCI extension broke, so I'm waiting for the arrival of a replacement. When I was last working on it, I tried setting the BIOS up for USB boot, but it wouldn't retain that setting. Thinking about it recently, I'm wondering if it has a bad BIOS battery, so will try replacing that. Since I couldn't get a video card set up, I tried installing OMV on a SATA SSD using a spare PC (the included DOM isn't large enough for any real OS installation) and then connecting it to the SS4200's PATA port with a PATA to SATA adapter, but it didn't boot. I read afterwards that OMV 64 bit no longer has any built-in support for PATA, so I may try 32bit, or I may just wait until the extension arrives so I'm not flying blind.

My other NAS is an 8x2TB repurposed Buffalo that I installed OMV on. It's an Atom-based server and not really upgradeable except for memory, but it has a built-in VGA port so installing via console is easy. That's pretty much superseded the original 4200 ATM, but I'm hoping to get both running with 8 drives (internal+external) shortly.
 

Samir

Very Senior Member
Thank you for posting! Sounds like you have almost the same set of ss4200-e units that I have, except I'm running the stock software on both. :) Have you run into the issue I posted above of the 'call' going to 70.148.54.17? I would be very curious to hear about anything you find out.

Since acquiring these, I've also acquired an older WD nas unit and it is surprising to see the ss4200-e generally outperform it even though they are much older than the WD unit. The WD units has some benefits compared to the ss4200-e because of its newer design, primarily larger drive support.
 

swechsler

Occasional Visitor
Have you run into the issue I posted above of the 'call' going to 70.148.54.17? I would be very curious to hear about anything you find out.
Up until today I didn't have any outgoing traffic blocked on my firewall, but I've just disallowed in/out internet connections to the SS4200. So far nothing.
 

Samir

Very Senior Member
Up until today I didn't have any outgoing traffic blocked on my firewall, but I've just disallowed in/out internet connections to the SS4200. So far nothing.
Interesting. I wonder why my two boxes want to phone that number?
 

Samir

Very Senior Member
A little bit of a benchmark update, as well as what's potentially in the pipeline. :)

So I just acquired a Synology DS215J that I put a WD/HGST 10TB Enterprise drive in. This is not the shucked drives that everyone has but a real-deal 7200 enterprise drive with a 5yr warranty. Once I had the unit all set up, I ran some speed tests comparing it to both of my ss4200-e units. The results were quite impressive.

I used lan_speedtest versions 1.2.0 and 1.3.1 under xp and windows 7 to benchmark 50MB and 500MB file sizes as a rough guide.

Under xp, on the 50MB file size, all 3 units were around the same 55MB/sec speed for read and write. Obviously this was probably showing the limits of the q9550 based system than the nas units. On 500MB file sizes, though the Fujitsu unit which runs 4x1TB in raid 5 showed slower write performance than the other two, and the Intel units which run 4x2TB in raid1+0 also showed slightly slower write performance, but not as degraded as the Fujitsu raid5. The Synology was the fastest.

Under windows 7 with 50MB file size (on a i5-2500k based system), all 3 units read between 80MB/sec and 90MB/sec. Quite impressive to see the ss4200-e units keep up with the Synology which is spec'd at much higher read/write speeds as well as the drive installed also having faster read/write specs. It was in the 500MB test that you could see the real differences with the Fujitsu's write dropping to 37MB/sec and the Intel's to 50MB/sec as opposed to the Synology at 85MB/sec. The reads were also slightly slower on the ss4200-e units at 83MB/sec and 74MB/sec respectively while the Synology was at 95MB/sec.

No doubt that the synology is a faster unit even though it is older and near the bottom of their line, but what it does show is that as a pure and simple nas unit, the ss4200-e has aged very well considering the 2008 (intel press release) vs 2014 (synology press release) age gap of nearly 6 years in which there was tremendous change in nas units as well as drive technology. And considering it is still possible to build at 16TB volume on the ss4200-e using now 'small' 4TB drives, there is definitely a second wind for these potent little units for anyone that needs a very basic file-sharing nas unit.

The ss4200-e motherboard spec sheet alluded to a 16GB ram capacity via 4x 4GB DDR2 modules. Considering the unit only has one memory slot and that 2GB memory was much more readily available, no one really tried a 4GB DDR2 module. Well, hopefully that will change in the next few weeks as I believe I have sourced some 4GB modules to try. These modules won't do anything for the stock software, but they should allow some nas packages to install that previously were memory limited.

I have one ss4200-e that is in pieces and requires some parts, and if the 4gb modules do work, I will consider some sort of nas build using that unit. I have been considering such a build because I also have a sans digital 8 bay dual esata external case with port multipliers that should work with the ss4200-e. Using this external case and the ss4200-e's internal 4 bays would give a total of 12 drives. Combining this with a nas platform that would work well on the ss4200-e hardware would be very interesting indeed considering the ss4200-e has no native hard drive size limitation. The current theoretical limit would be 16x12=192TB using hardware that is a fraction of the cost of a single drive in such a configuration. Such a setup would be one of the cheapest ways to get such a large storage array.

I think I am also a few weeks away from acquiring the 4tb drives needed to max out the stock setup capabilities. Stay tuned. The ss4200-e lives on and on. :)
 

elliot.trance2

Occasional Visitor
1.) "ss4200 keeps crashing" - mine started acting up like that too (but I use FreeBSD as mentioned in earlier post I also posted a howto do a headless install)
- as I used a 16GB USB-Stick to boot from, I have checked the stick(for flash mem corruption) but it was fine

2.) FreeBSD is unable to use PATA, I have looked at the dmesg outputs posted on the net the PATA is attached via "isa" something, I have tried certain kernel modules none got the PATA port recognized under linux
- Hint Booting from USB isn't that bad.

3.) "Have you considered upgrading from the 4x 4TB to 4x 10/12/14TB? It would be interesting to see how it would handle larger and faster drives."
- the ss4200 is only my iscsi-backup server and 16TB total is still enough
- recently I have bought a 12TB WD Ultrastar DC520 and I have reorganized my storage so I'm now ok with 12TB
(I do binary image backups of some of my desktop-Systems harddrives - hence with consolidation I have externalized the images freeing up some space)
 

Samir

Very Senior Member
Thank you for the additional information for the readers of this thread. :)

I think I know why #2 happens--this might be an original pata IDE port which was before any of the faster ATA specs came along and freebsd probably dropped support for the port a long time ago. I have a hunch if you dug up an old freebsd from the era of these controllers it would recognize it.

Gotcha. So is the 12TB in the ss4200-e?
 

swechsler

Occasional Visitor
I think I know why #2 happens--this might be an original pata IDE port which was before any of the faster ATA specs came along and freebsd probably dropped support for the port a long time ago. I have a hunch if you dug up an old freebsd from the era of these controllers it would recognize it.
This is unlikely to be the case. The SS4200 motherboard includes 4 internal SATA II interfaces and 2 external (which I assume are also SATA II). They'd be unlikely to have included anything but the latest PATA revision since PATA was already on its way out when this was made.
 

Samir

Very Senior Member
This is unlikely to be the case. The SS4200 motherboard includes 4 internal SATA II interfaces and 2 external (which I assume are also SATA II). They'd be unlikely to have included anything but the latest PATA revision since PATA was already on its way out when this was made.
The spec sheets of the ss4200-e show a lot of oddball and very specific design elements such as a separate esata connector that is fully compatible with port multipliers, as well as the capability (but never implemented) of dual integrated nics versus just one, as well as 16GB memory capacity even though there's only a single memory slot. They designed this motherboard very purposefully, gathering very specific components for their design. Knowing that the IDE wouldn't be used much once the system booted, they might have opted to get a cheaper chipset that didn't support the full ata spec. After all, older components probably get as cheap as the products--like this nas as a case in point.
 

swechsler

Occasional Visitor
That's possible, but we'll probably never know.

To elliot.trance2, regarding booting from USB, how did you force this? With my second SS4200, I was only get it to boot from USB via a change to a BIOS setting, and it was lost every time the power was shut off.
 

Samir

Very Senior Member
Yep, quite true. It would be neat if an Intel engineer who worked on this unit stumbled onto this thread somehow. :)

Did you save the settings in the bios once you changed it? If so, did you check the cmos battery? The original battery would be quite old by now.
 

Samir

Very Senior Member
So I was able to conduct the test of 4GB modules and unfortunately the ones I have did not work. :( I know these are working units as they work in an older AMD system I have (and surprisingly so since the motherboard isn't supposed to even support them).

I haven't been able to conduct the 4TB tests yet as good drive prices still allude me...

But along the way, the ss4200-e now as another companion--the Netgear ReadyNas Ultra 6. This unit ironically is built very similarly to the ss4200-e in terms of software. You can see some of the same things being used like mdadm as well as some of the same drivers in the dmesg of the unit. Speeds are more on par with the Synology than the ss4200-e, but I haven't had a chance to do any extensive comparisons--yet. Very similarly to the ss4200-e, the Netgear features standard ram modules and even has an extra slot, so I was able to upgrade the ram to 4GB from the stock 1GB. (Unfortunately my 4GB modules didn't work here either so the upgrade was 2x 2GB modules). This unit is also able to upgrade to a newer but unsupported version of the nas software (OS6), but I prefer to use it in its stock form since the 8TB Exos drive I want to use seems like it will work.

You can actually see what the ss4200-e might have evolved into in the ReadyNas Ultra 6--dual ethernet ports, x86 custom hardware, more drive bays, 4TB+ drive support, digital display. It's a shame that the ss4200-e with dual ethernet was never released as that would even be useful today.

So now that there is a small collection of nas units the task of quickly replicating all the data to all of them is a lot larger. And while it is easy enough to run batch files that do the job, rsync gets touted a lot when you do searches on the topic. Unfortunately, as old as all these units are (sans the Synology), rsync isn't a native feature...or is it?

I never realized that rsync is as ubiquitous as the venerable xcopy in dos. And on a whim, I decided to check if the ss4200-e, WD My Cloud EX2, and Netgear ReadyNas Ultra 6 had rsync in their ssh--and they all do! I don't know what this means at the moment as I don't know much about rsync, but something tells me that nas to nas replication might be a lot easier with a single rsync command in the ssh. If someone knows about rsync and wants to suggest some commands to try, I'm more than up for it. :) I can easily replicate data from the ss4200-e to the netgear since the netgear is almost ready for production work--I just need the command. :D

The ss4200-e (and friends!) lives on. :)
 

DarkWing

New Around Here
I've had the SS4200e running for 10+ years now and it is still going strong. I've had some drive failures over the years, and replaced the power supply, (to be expected) and have replaced a couple of the original drives with larger 2 TB drives. I've had a few crashes where I had to ssh to the console and do some manual repairs. It's nice to see others still using it. I am just running the stock intel/emc software.

My latest experience with a crash took a bit to get past. One day the lights on the front were all solid orange. When I tried to access the webpage or the console through SSH neither would respond, however the unit would respond to pings. I pressed the power button once to initiate a shutdown and waited. Nothing happened, so I held in the power button until it shutdown. I powered it back on and it booted and went through some normal stuff then the lights went orange again. I was able to get to the management web page this time and it said that all 4 drives had experienced and issue and wanted me to click to authorize it to overwrite to correct the problem. I didn't want to lose data (I did have a backup that was a few months old), and I found it very unlikely that all 4 drives would fail at the same time. Also it wasn't indicating a hardware issue with the drives, just basically that the data was corrupt.

So I logged in to the console to begin trouble shooting the issue. My linux skills are quite basic so I had to look up a lot of info on the commands. I was able to use mdadm commands (-query, -examine) to determine some information about the array and disks. All the disks showed OK. After some more troubleshooting and some reboots I got it to start re-syncing the array. I thought that I would be good at this point. After it resynced though the drives still were showing orange so I did another shutdown and reboot. After booting back up the issue remained and the lights were orange.

I noticed that sometimes after rebooting the system would freeze up and only respond to pings, but not to ssh or the web console. I know that it runs a disk check program (fsck?) on boot up. I was able to get back into the console but after just a minute or so it would lock up. I started looking into the logs and saw that the OOM (Out Of Memory) killer was killing fsck before it could finish. I figured that it was running out of memory and that could be the reason it was locking up. Also if the fsck couldn't finish it couldn't fix any of the array issues.

So - what to do? The system only had the stock 512MB memory. I had ordered a 2GB stick but it would be a few days before it arrived. I found a post about someone having an issue with fsck being killed by OOM on another nas/san device. Their solution was to use a USB memory stick and mount it as swap so fsck could finish - very slow, but at least it could finish. So I went about mounting a 8 GB usb stick. It took some work to get the right commands, because initially it wouldn't allow the USB to be read write. I finally found the right commands to mount it, create the swap files, turn on swap files.
Here are the commands I think I used (the memory stick was in the shape of Bart Simpson, hence the Bart directory name)
mkdir /mnt/soho_storage/Bart
ntfs-3g /dev/sde1/usb-ntfs /mnt/soho_storage/Bart -o rw,big_writes
dd if=/dev/sde1 of=/mnt/soho_storage/Bart swapfile1 bs=1024 count=4194304
mkswap /mnt/external/swapfile1
swapon /mnt/external/swapfile1

I created an additional swapfile2 and swapfile3 on the drive to allow extra swap space. After I did this I ran fsck with the autofix options. It took a long time but it finally completed, but said I would need to run it again with the manual options. So I ran it again and it had many, many things to fix. Basically it looked like it was adjusting all the blocks, files, inodes by a few blocks. Anyway - after going through it a second time it completed. I was then able to mount the array (after turning off the swap usb and unmounting it). I could access the files on the array now through the console, but the drive lights were still showing as orange. I initiated a soft reboot, and after a few minutes everything came up fine and all the files and everything were there. (YAY!)

I logged in to the console again and determined that the unit does create a swap file on the array to give it some extra memory/swap. Because all the drives/array were unable to be accessed, it wasn't able to create the swap and was running out of memory when running fsck to repair the issues.

I hope this helps someone - sorry it was so long. I've since replaced the 512MB memory stick with the 2 GB stick and was wondering why only 1 GB was recognized when I stumbled across this post and saw the explanation that the stock intel software will only recognize 1GB - thanks.
 

Samir

Very Senior Member
Thank you for the detailed post! This is really great to know. I actually ran into this same situation when I first got my first ss4200-e. I pulled out all the drives and scanned them and some were bad all of a sudden, so I just assumed it was that. The unit had no data on it so it didn't matter at the time, but it is good to know that there is actually a way to recover the unit without completely reformatting it.

I've been upgrading all of mine to 1GB of memory since I pretty much have some lying around. It does make a difference on transfer speeds from what I've been able to tell, probably due to a larger cache. (I'm sure I went into detail on this earlier in this thread somewhere with more data.)

Since my last post, I've had some changes in my NAS family. While the ss4200-e units are both running strong, the 8TB drive in the Netgear ReadyNAS failed, so off it went for warranty replacement. Unfortunately, the replacement drive was DOA, so I'm waiting for yet another replacement.

In the meantime, I got a good deal on a 12TB Exos and another 8TB Exos that is a twin of the one I've warranteed. Since the Netgear ReadyNAS was pretty much starting from scratch again, I put the 12TB in it to see what would happen, and I'm happy to report that it worked perfectly. :)

And the 8TB Exos twin that was in brand new condition went into what ended up being the final incarnation of the ss4200-e: the Lenovo ix2. This was essentially a rebranded iomega nas which also started out using the same emc software that the Intel ss4200-e did. But the Lenovo doesn't even hint at its emc heritage with a user interface similar to that of the synology than the ReadyNAS or the ss4200-e.

The ix2 is discontinued, so I got it dirt cheap ($34 shipped :D) and someone had proved 8TB drives were recognized, so this worked out great. Performance is similar if not identical to the ss4200-e, so while it doesn't look like the ss4200-e, the performance will definitely remind you. Still, for just a bit more than a drive, this is a dirt cheap nas with some caveats.

One of the biggest caveats is that I have found is the cooling. The unit bakes almost all the time and the fan doesn't ramp up from the normal ~800rpm. I'm still trying to find a command line method to manually change the fan speed on the ReadyNAS as well as the Lenovo ix2, and honestly, I wouldn't mind the ability to do it on the ss4200-e, although it is easy enough to simply pull the pwm pin on the fan. For now, I have a small usb fan forcing a little more air out of the ix2, but I know this isn't a permanent solution--getting the stock fan spinning at 100% would be.

Now one of the best things about the ReadyNAS and the Synology units is their ability to be an rsync server. Well, the lowly ix2 also has this capability. :) And a quick experiment between the ReadyNAS and the ix2, showed that they connected over rsync well and started a transfer which taxed both units as their temperatures started to rise--so much so in fact that I aborted the test. Until I can figure out better cooling, I don't want to risk toasting these things. Cooling is an area where you can see the design of the ss4200-e was extremely well thought out. I think I have just started experimenting with rsync and it will be interesting to see what the ss4200-e and WD Cloud EX will be able to do when connecting to the Synology, ReadyNAS, or Lenovo.

So the NAS family has grown from the start of this thread--3x ss4200-e (1x still in pieces), Synology DS215j, WD Cloud EX, Netgear ReadyNAS Ultra, and now the Lenovo ix2. It is interesting to see the different approaches to network storage and their various pros and cons. The best thing though is that my data is redundant now on multiple platforms. And 2x of them is the ss4200-e that still lives on. :)
 

Latest threads

Sign Up For SNBForums Daily Digest

Get an update of what's new every day delivered to your mailbox. Sign up here!
Top