This is an knowledge base of various information about the IBM DS6800 that I hope will be useful if you ever need to repair one of these disk arrays.

The intention is for this site to be updated as new information becomes apparent or outdated. Right now the site is very much in a pre-alpha state and I hope to have more of a narrative down the road, but I thought it would be fun to share the story as it develops. This site grew from an article on the blog.

The DS6800 controller, our patientThe DS6800 controller, our patient

For what it is worth, IBM calls the controllers and various other things sea related things which can be confusing. This is the translation for them:

Word What
Kona Main Controller
Banjo Expansion Controller
Shark Unit
Reef Cluster of many units
Sea Firmware
Arrowhead Device FC adapter
Bering Host FC adapter

This site consists of the following parts:

There are also some pre-compiled tools available.

System Diagram

This is still work-in-progress but is a representation of the current understood system diagram of a controller.

System diagram of a controllerSystem diagram of a controller

Chassis and Components

DS6800 controller breakdownDS6800 controller breakdown

Index Component Subsystem Purpose
1a ?? Arrowhead FC Loop Engine
1b ?? Arrowhead FC Loop Engine
2a ?? Bering 2xFC PHY?
2b ?? Bering 2xFC PHY?
3a IBM 64P8205 Arrowhead IO and System RAM
3b ?? Arrowhead Device IO ASIC?
3c Marvell MV64361-BAY System System CPU
3d ?? System System PCI-X?
4a ?? Arrowhead Arrowhead PCI-X?
4b ?? Bering Bering PCI-X?
5a ?? Bering Bering ASIC?
5b 2x 1GB DDR Bering Bering HBA Memory?
5c Lattice LC4512V Bering? Unknown CPLD?
6 H8S/S166V ZP Card aux. processor
7a Lattice ispGDX160VA FC FC lane patch panel?
7b Emulex InSpeed SOC 422 FC FC switch
8 PLX PCI6540 System PCI-X system bridge

Component Generations

There seems to be some notable differences between some generation of components - most likely 511/522. The parts seems to be compatible, but there are some notable differences that make e.g. the 45W9585 nicer. See the photos below where the 22R4876 is compared to the 45W9585 - notice the front panel which is glued onto the earlier and is prone to come off when opening it up and otherwise handling it.

Fragile front on the 22R4876Fragile front on the 22R4876

Much nicer front on the 45W9585Much nicer front on the 45W9585

The controller itself has some different components and overall has a nicer look to it, so it is yet another point in the likely-a-later-generation column.

The 45W9585 controllerThe 45W9585 controller

Expansion Controller

Expansion ControllerExpansion Controller (a.k.a. Banjo)

Notice the gap in the backplane connection.

The Kona controllers share a FC connection between them, which is most likely why the gap is present on Banjo controllers.

The processor cards must be able to communicate with each other when the server enclosure is powered on.

This means that there is no internal ethernet connection via the midplane. A peculiar design choice if you ask me.


List of useful part numbers

Part number FRU What ZP Product Data
22R0077 - Common Chassis  
22R6430 23R0470 Main Controller  
22R4876 23R0471 Main Controller Kona Pass 2.5
23R1274 45W9585 Main Controller (522?)  
45W0119 23R0472 Exp. Controller  
23R1275 23R0473 Exp. Controller (EX2?)  
22R3680 unknown Exp. Controller Banjo Pass 2.5
22R2198 unknown Exp. Controller  
22R2911 - Rail kit  
23R0354 - RS232 serial cable  
24R1920 - Common Midplane for 1750-511  
23R2214 22R6305 Rear Operator Panel  
96P1132 - Rear Operator Panel  
22R3807 - 736W PSU  
22R5092 23R0247 Battery Pack  
22R1291 unknown Battery Pack  
22R5944 22R5944 300GB 10K disk  

Filesystem and Storage

The storage is rumored to be one of the biggest sources of pain on the DS6800. Thankfully the storage is slotted and removable, but sadly it is in the most inconvenient place imaginable. You might consider getting a CompactFlash extender, but I have no experience to share whether or not they work with this particular board.

Note when re-assembling the controller that the plastic LED light guide rods have a tendency to bend upwards, making the PCB ever so slightly not align with the screw holes. Pushing the light guides down one by one while gently apply pressure to push the PCB in I have found works for me.

The CompactFlash location, underneath the controllerThe CompactFlash location, underneath the controller

Partition table:

Partition Mount Usage
hda1 /var/log Log data (shared)
hda2 - Extended partition
hda5 /other/ Root partition B
hda6 /other/other_lic License partition B
hda7 / Root partition A
hda8 /curr_lic License partition A
hda9 /persist Persistent data (shared)

This is the mount table for reference:

LABEL=current    /                ext3    noatime  0 1
LABEL=curr_lic   /curr_lic        ext3    noatime  0 2
/dev/hda9        /persist         ext3    noatime  0 2
/dev/hda1        /var/log         ext3    noatime  0 2
LABEL=other      /other           ext3    noatime,noauto 0 0
LABEL=other_lic  /other/other_lic ext3    noatime,noauto 0 0

The CF cards that I have tested with and the result:

Card Result
Transcend Compact Flash Card 2GB MLC (2GB) [TS2GCF133] System hang
Sandisk Extreme Compact Flash (32GB) [SDCFXSB-032G-G46] System reboot loop
SMART Industrial Compact Flash 2GB (S-Series) [SG9CF2GSMBxx] System reboot loop
Swissbit 4GB Compact Flash SLC C-500 I-TEMP [SFCF4096H1AF2TO-I-QT-517-STD] System reboot loop
Swissbit 2GB Compact Flash SLC C-300 C-TEMP [SFCF2048H1BK1TO-C-DT-553-SMA] System hang
SMART IBM-model Compact Flash 2GB (H-Series) [SG9CF2GHYAAIBM] Works
SMART Compact Flash 2GB (unknown model) [SM9FLACF2048D4] Works
SMART (unbranded) 2GB SG9CF2GHYAA-DWMS Works
SimpleTech 2GB IBMCF2GBJ-S Works
SimpleTech 2GB IBMCF2GBJU-S Works

When the system does not like the particular CF card you get messages that look like this:

     Data:    0x7473
     Error:   0x00
     SectCnt: 0x17
     SectNum: 0xD8
     CylLow:  0x3C
     CylHi:   0x42
     Status:  0x58
     AltStat: 0x58
 CF Not Being reset -- operation in progress?
*message repeats but system is alive, SEGV happens and system reboots*

and possibly messages like these:

     Data:    0xEBDB
     Error:   0x00
     SectCnt: 0x1B
     SectNum: 0xB7
     CylLow:  0xC6
     CylHi:   0x03
     Status:  0x58
     AltStat: 0x58
 CF Not Being reset -- operation in progress?

hda: lost interrupt
hda: lost interrupt
hda: lost interrupt
*message repeats and system is hung*

One hypothesis was that this is related to the cards are trying to use (U)DMA but the wiring of the CF socket might be only for PIO. This page has some information about why this might be a problem. However as the SG9CF2G card also fails this is probably not true as it does not support DMA from what I can tell.

Serial Console

The connector is an RJ11 with 6P4C pin configuration.

RJ11 pin color mappingRJ11 pin color mapping

The pinout for a converter between the RJ11 6P4C male to a DB-9 female is like this:

Connect using 38400 baud, 8n1, and no flow control.

If you take the CompactFlash out and and check the filesystem you can easily find the shadow file. To save you the trouble and power to crack them, these are the passwords:

Username Password
root kimelm@n
tester t3ster
level3 tucs0n
level2 level2
level1 level1
serial serial
guest guest
cl cl
copyforcustomer unknown
mfg unknown

You can also get into the initrd if you want to do some other recovery or password resetting. This is done by typing the passphrase “r33f” when the “Loading Initrd…” is displayed.

Freeing initrd memory: 4096k freed
VFS: Mounted root (ext2 filesystem).
Mounting /proc filesystem
Loading Initrd...r33f
12: Terminated
Success, response match.

BusyBox v0.60.5 (2006.07.26-22:08+0000) Built-in shell (ash)
Enter 'help' for a list of built-in commands.

sh: can't access tty; job control turned off

This allows you to mount the root file system over NFS if you want:

# Become pid 1
rm /sbin/init
echo '#!/bin/ash' > /sbin/init
echo 'exec /bin/ash' >> /sbin/init
chmod +x /sbin/init
echo 0x0100 > /proc/sys/kernel/real-root-dev
umount /proc
# - Make sure to use the IP the machine expects
# - Ensure /etc/fstab is empty and exit 0 is in top of etc/init.d/boot.localfs
# - Disable interface flapping in lic/bin/ lines 217-223
mount -t proc none /proc
insmod modules/smc91111.o
ifconfig eth0 netmask
ifconfig eth0 up
route add default gw
mkdir /root
mount -t nfs -o nolock,tcp /root
# This is done to make the sanity check a bit happier
mount -t nfs -o nolock,tcp /root/persist
mount -t nfs -o nolock,tcp /root/var/log
cd /root
/sbin/pivot_root . initrd
exec /sbin/init

The initrd seems to be obfuscated using a program called “foo” and I am not sure if it is stored in the zImage yet or written to some obscure flash portion - probably it is just in the zImage. Since it is not trivial to change the initrd I have not endeavoured to make NFS booting permanent, so running the system like this is not ideal as you would have to catch every reboot manually.

Disk Compatibility

Inserting a HP 300G / 15K FC-AL drive into the backplane works and the drive powers on, so likely with some software modification the array can be made to work with other drives.

Further Reading

IBM usually makes some great documentation, and this is true here as well. I recommend these links in particular.