Upgrading HP Dynamic Smart Array B120i RAID Controller

wannabecraig used Ask the Experts™
We have a HP DL 360e Gen 8 with the standard HP Dynamic Smart Array B120i RAID Controller.
We're buying the FBWC battery (HP 512MB 36in FBWC B-Series Smart Array) so we can upgrade to RAID 5
We have ESX on it, it's configured with 4 x 2TB disks in a 0+1 config.

Can this be upgraded on the fly and how does it go about this?
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As far as I know or have been able to determine through research, the B120i controller does not allow for expansion of any existing array.  So, you would have to back up your current server configuration and files, delete the current array and create a new one, and then restore the server configuration.  See this post in the HP forums:




It's more conversion than expansion. It's converting a 0+1 to a 5.
The above is about a 320i, is that a better card?

In that discussion it says "I have read the manual but haven't seen any information regarding volume expand. Only Raid migration."  Which is more accurately what we want to do, migrate, not expand.
Most Valuable Expert 2015

Why are you even considering in going down to RAID 5? RAID 5 is something obsolete from the the last decade or more. It used to be useful at those times the disks were very expensive and still had a very low capacity and you had to get as much data packed on a limited number of them, as you only lost one of the disks to the RAID. Today disks are much larger and cheaper. RAID 5 is a risky type of RAID, as when one of them fails and a rebuild starts, your remaining disks will be at high stress which can cause a further failure, which would mean a total loss of the data. Particularly if you are using large capacity disks that rebuild will take a long time, increasing that risk.

In my point of view you should stay with your current RAID 0+1, or then at least use something like RAID 6 which is more forgiving than RAID 5, as you can loose 2 disks.
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The migration options that comment refers to tell you how to migrate the hard drives to a different controller.  As far as I know, there's really no option that would allow you to somehow convert one RAID scheme to another without a lot of finagling. NOTE:  The following suggested solution is made without any guarantees.  It may or may not work, so use at your own risk.

Given that you have a known GOOD backup of everything on the array, you could try:

1.  Break the mirror between the two RAID 1 arrays.
2.  Test if you can boot and have all data from both of the 2 arrays.
3.  If the test is successful, break the mirror between the two drives in one of the arrays.  Test if you can boot from that drive.

If the tests are unsuccessful, then you're left with the option of creating a completely new RAID array and rebuilding everything from backups.  If the tests are successful to the point where you end up with a single bootable drive with all data on it, then you can take other 3 and create a RAID array.  Then you can install ESX onto the new array and migrate your data from the remaining single drive to the array.  After restoring all data, you can add the single drive to the array, either as a spare or as an additional drive in the array, which will of course wipe all of the data from that drive as well.


The problem is it's only a budget server and we just need the extra space for a small period of time.
It's a dev box and we're putting a project on it until we get to a better place.
So expanding it by 2TB we solve the space issue for us.
The box has only 4 slots and we want to expand as cheaply as possible.


@ hypercat.  I was going from the info provided to me by my supplier.
This is what I get from him

"Yes there's slot on the motherboard for it.
You should be able to migrate the RAID on the fly, but I would backup anyway just in case you have any hitches."

"You won't be doing an expansion per say to new drives that aren't in the existing array.
You are doing RAID migration. So changing the raid 10 on the existing 4 x 2TB (usable 4TB) to raid 5 on the existing 4 x 2TB (usable 6TB).   According to HP pre-sales and the user guide this is possible."
I haven't seen evidence that what you're describing can be done with any HP array controller I've used without creating a new array (which wipes all data) from the same set of drives.  The distribution of data in a 0+1 array is completely different from that in a RAID array, plus there's no parity data, so I don't see how it could work without completely rewriting all of the data in the array.  My understanding may be flawed (or out of date I suppose), so I would encourage you to confirm or deny this by contacting HP support directly.


Yeah, I totally agree with you, which is why I've mailed my supplier, asked for evidence and have not yet purchased the device.  he has promised me that he'll have the info over to me tomorrow and I'll post it here.


ok, so pre-sales say that this upgrade cannot be done after all.
They do seem to suggest that if we install a P series (HP Smart Array P222/512 FBWC 6Gb 1-port Int/1-port Ext SAS Controller)  we will be able to migrate the array to the new card without losing the data.

You think that's possible?

Here is the answer from HP pre-sales:
HP ProLiant Gen9 servers now support the HP Smart Storage Administrator (HP SSA) instead of the Array Configuration Utility (ACU). HP SSA includes all of the functions previously included in the ACU.
Please see "Configuration tasks" from page twenty-two of the following guide:
HP Smart Storage Administrator User Guide
It lists "Migrate RAID/Stripe Size" as a feature common to all controllers.
However, upon further investigation, the table marked "Support for configuration tasks" (from page six) shows that the "Migrate RAID/Stripe Size" is only supported on the P-Series controllers. Please accept my apologies for the confusion.
In this case I would suggest a migration to a P-Series controller. Under Windows for example, this can be achieved by following the steps found on page twenty-three of the following guide. Please see "Migrating hard drives to an optional Smart Array controller—Microsoft Windows":
Again, I didn't find anything in that manual that says exactly that you can do what you want to do.  I strongly advise that you not rely on your supplier but contact HP support directly (or at least use their support forums) to communicate with and get exact steps from someone who can confirm that this can be done successfully and how to do it.  I was hoping (and you probably were too) that someone else from EE would chime in here and say, "Been there done that and here's how" but so far no luck on that!
Top Expert 2014

Hardly worth asking HP about "dynamic" smart array controllers and RAID level migration, they're the ones that listed it in the quickspecs for the B120i and then had to remove it because RAID level migration isn't a feature of this fakeraid Intel chipset based controller.

Migrating to a proper Smart Array controller or backup/restore as already suggested are the main options, there's also a cheaper option of adding an external USB disk to the server.


Yeah, we've decided to move to a HP Smart Array P222/512 FBWC 6Gb 1-port Int/1-port Ext SAS Controller.

As said above, using the same disks doesn't not allow you to migrate from RAID 10 to RAID 5.
We'll also get much better performance from the PCI card rather than just adding some FBWC to the existing on-board one.

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