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Hot spare clarification


Well-known member
I had some weirdness with my new 3U that I am not sure about. Somehow everything I thought I knew might be wrong!

The server came with 11 x 1tb drives. One drive was flashing indicating that is was a hot spare. The server page indicates the capacity was 8948 GB. I have read here somewhere that the hot spare is not strictly needed (except if you take it out, the server will complain) and consequenly not written to until it gets called into action. And also I thought I read that since it was not written to yet, it was still a 'spare' and could be used in another server the same way any other spare drive could.

I decided to test this theory by turning off the server and removing the drive that had been flashing. I turned it back on and expected to be scolded by the admin page about the missing hot spare. But something weird happened... One of the 10 remaining drives started flashing and the capacity reported went down to 7954 GB. I didn't think it was possible for the filesystem to go down in size... There were no errors anywhere that I could see, everything seemed normal. Any ideas on what is going on?

In the end, I shut the server off again and put the removed drive back in. When I rebooted, the drive that had been removed went back to flashing and the reported capacity went back up to 8948 GB. Is this set still good to use or did I wreck it somehow? Since I am ultimately putting the drives from my 1U into this server, this was more of a science experiment than anything.


Kaleidescape, Inc.
◥ ◣ Kaleidescape, Inc.
There is a little-known feature to our file system: if a disk that has never had any data written to it fails (or just goes missing), instead of degrading the filesystem, the disk is simply removed from the filesystem record and the filesystem shrinks in size accordingly. However, once a disk has had data written to it, this isn't possible so when the disk fails or goes missing it is marked as such and the filesystem enters a degraded state.

So in your specific scenario above I suspect what happened is this:
You removed the hotspare. When the system booted up, it detected that the hotspare was missing. It then looked at the rest of the disks, found (at least) one that was unused (i.e. had never had data written to it), removed it from the active system and marked it as the hotspare. Your available storage went down.

Then you reinserted the removed disk cartridge. As it was marked as the original hotspare it became so again and the pristine disk that had been dropped from the active filesystem was returned to normal service.

If, on the other hand, you had done this same thing on a system that was closer to full, you would have retained the full 8948 GB of storage capacity and your system would have displayed an alert that you were operating without a hotspare as you were expecting.


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Thanks John!