Installing Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 on HP Dynamic Smart Array B120i SATA RAID

I have a few HPE ProLiant SL4540 Gen 8 servers that have a hardware RAID controller (HP Dynamic Smart Array B120i SATA RAID) that manages the two node hard disks. They are configured as a logical drive array with RAID 1 (i.e. mirroring).

Recently, I had to install Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 7.3 on the servers, but the challenge came of getting the installer to recognize the RAID controller. This post lists the steps to get the installer to load the RAID controller to recognize the RAID 1 logical drive array.

Technically, the steps listed here should work for installations with different RAID controllers – simply use their corresponding drivers.

Nitty gritty steps as follow. First section is a list of the steps to be done, and second section is the output of the command line during the driver installation.

List of Steps

Step 1: Download the RAID controller driver

Just searching for the RAID controller’s name should return you the desired page quickly (I used “hpe HP Dynamic Smart Array B120i SATA RAID driver

On the driver download page, I selected the driver language(English), and the Operating System (Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 Server) from the drop down list.

I found the drivers in the section “Driver – Storage Controller”, which provided me the following options:

  • kmod-hpvsa-1.2.16-102.rhel7u0.x86_64.rpm
  • kmod-hpvsa-1.2.16-102.rhel7u1.x86_64.rpm
  • kmod-hpvsa-1.2.16-102.rhel7u2.x86_64.rpm
  • kmod-hpvsa-1.2.16-102.rhel7u3.x86_64.rpm

As you would have guessed, the “rhel7u_” refers to the RHEL version. Download the corresponding version that you are installing.

Step 2: Preparing the Driver Software in a Thumb Drive

The file extension is “.rpm”, which refers to the Redhat Package Manager.

From my experience, if you have downloaded the driver on a Windows host, simply copying the driver onto a thumb drive, and renaming the extension to “.dd” is sufficient.

If you are on a Linux host, create the driver software using the following commands (warning: existing data on thumbdrive will be lost!):

$ dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sdc bs=4K $ dd if=hpvsa-1.2.12-110.rhel7u0.x86_64.dd of=/dev/sdc bs=4K && sync

Step 3: Loading the Driver

Now that you have a thumb drive containing the driver, it is time to commence the installation. Boot into the installer and get to the screen which asks to “Install Red Hat Enterprise Linux”, “Test this media & install red Hat Enterprise Linux” and “Troubleshooting”.

Press escape key to enter the command prompt, and enter the following:
“linux modprobe.blacklist=ahci inst.dd”

Press the enter key, and you will be presented a list of attached devices for “Driver disk device selection”. Insert your driver software thumb drive from Step 2 and press ‘r’ to refresh the list.

Locate your thumb drive (ideally by the label), and key in the number on the left.

Expand the driver disk ISO file (there should only be one), to see a list of drivers to install. Locate the driver name as mentioned in Step 1, and key in the number to toggle the selection, and press ‘c’ to continue with the installation. You may get a warning that “DD repo content not a file”, but it is only a warning – the driver would have been installed.

You should be at the “Driver disk device selection” menu again – press ‘c’ to continue with the RHEL installation. The installer should be able to recognize the RAID controller and the logical disks managed by it.

Command Line Output

(after pressing esc key from the installation menu)

boot: linux modprobe.blacklist=ahci inst.dd

(Page 1 of 1) Driver disk device selection
    /DEVICE   TYPE    LABEL              UUID 
 1) sda       ext4                       (some unique alpha-numeric ID of the disk)
 2) sdb       ext4                       (some unique alpha-numeric ID of the disk)
 3) sdc       ext4                       (some unique alpha-numeric ID of the disk)
 4) sdd1      vfat    RHEL-7_3\x20SE     (some unique alpha-numeric ID of the thumb drive)
 5) sde1      ext4    OEMDRV             (some unique alpha-numeric ID of the thumb drive)
# to select, 'r'-refresh, or 'c'-continue: 5
DD: Examining /dev/sde1

(Page 1 of 1) Choose driver disk ISO file 
 1) /media/DD-3/hpvsa-1.2.16-102.rhel7u3.x86_64.iso
# to select, or 'c'-continue: 1
DD: Examining /media/DD-3/hpvsa-1.2.16-102.rhel7u3.x86_64.iso

(Page 1 of 1) Select drivers to install 
 1) [ ] /media/DD-4/rpms/x86_64/kmod-hpvsa-1.2.16-102.rhel7u3.x86_64.rpm
# to toggle selection, or 'c'-continue: 1

(Page 1 of 1) Select drivers to install 
 1) [x] /media/DD-4/rpms/x86_64/kmod-hpvsa-1.2.16-102.rhel7u3.x86_64.rpm
# to toggle selection, or 'c'-continue: c
DD: Extracting: kmod-hpvsa
DD: WARNING: DD repo content not a file: /media/DD-12/rpms/x86_64/repodata 

(Page 1 of 1) Driver disk device selection
    /DEVICE   TYPE    LABEL              UUID 
 1) sda       ext4                       (some unique alpha-numeric ID of the disk)
 2) sdb       ext4                       (some unique alpha-numeric ID of the disk)
 3) sdc       ext4                       (some unique alpha-numeric ID of the disk)
 4) sdd1      vfat    RHEL-7_3\x20SE     (some unique alpha-numeric ID of the thumb drive)
 5) sde1      ext4    OEMDRV             (some unique alpha-numeric ID of the thumb drive)
# to select, 'r'-refresh, or 'c'-continue: c

(Linux installer should continue from here, and the RAID-ed disks should be seen as the logical volume(s) they are configured in)

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