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Checklist: How to set up HBAs

Host bus adapters are one of the most time-consuming parts of a SAN to install.

What you will learn from this tip: How to avoid problems -- and hours of troubleshooting time -- by setting up HBAs correctly the first time. Need a downloadable copy? Go here.

Host bus adapters are one of the most time-consuming parts of a SAN to install. This isn't because HBAs are intrinsically trouble-prone, but rather because you have to have everything set right. A few minutes reading through the manual and double-checking your settings and connections can save you hours of troubleshooting time. Here are a few steps to take, to make sure that your HBAs are set up correctly.

How to set up HBAs 

  • Use available aids
    Many manufacturers provide utilities and hardware features to simplify HBA installation. For example, Emulex AutoPilot software allows administrators to install multiple HBAs simultaneously and remotely in as few as six mouse clicks. Other vendors, such at ATTO Technology, LSI Logic and Qlogic, also offer aids in getting your new HBAs running. Availability varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. It's important to check and see what your HBA offers.

  • Make sure you have the latest firmware
    Check the installed firmware against the latest version available on the manufacturer's Web site. If you don't have the newest applicable version, download and install the newer firmware.

  • Check your work as you go 
    Bringing up an HBA is a multi-step process. The temptation is to blast through it. Don't. Check your progress at each step by testing what you have done so far. For example, once you have installed the card and the drivers, check to make sure that your system recognizes the HBA. (In Windows 2000, you can do this by looking at Windows Device Manager. If the HBA is correctly installed, it should appear under the SCSI and RAID controllers, not the network devices.)

  • Connections, connections, connections 
    Probably 90% of the problems with HBAs come from the connections. Make sure the card is properly seated in the chassis and that all the cable connections are correct and tight. It often helps to give the socket with a blast of canned air to get any dust out before you seat the card.

  • Know yellow from orange and ST from SC 
    Single mode fiber cable has a yellow coating. Multimode (short wave) cable is orange. Using the wrong kind of cable will damage or destroy your device. The consequences of having the wrong kind of connectors on your cables are less drastic, but still won't work. ST is the coming thing in FC SANS, but SC is still common.

  • Configure your switch and fabric 
    If your switch and fabric are not set to handle the new HBA you can waste a lot of time trying to troubleshoot an "HBA problem," which is actually elsewhere. Your RAID controller needs to be set up correctly, for example. If your SAN supports zoning make sure the HBA is included in the appropriate zone. Likewise, set your HBA for the speed of your target device.

For more information:

Tip: Set up persistent binding on an HBA

Tip: Troubleshooting your SAN (more or less) painlessly

Tip: Troubleshooting Fibre Channel host bus adapters in PCs

About the author: Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term meant an 80 K floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last 20 years, he has been a freelance writer specializing in storage and other computer issues.

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