Update: I wrote a new tool that lets you do most of this process from Linux, without rebooting and without needing any UEFI or DOS tools, which should work for any LSI SAS2008 card regardless of vendor and let you crossflash to any firmware.
I own a Fujitsu Primergy server (hosted at a secret location ;-) ) that I use for offsite backups and a few misc things (and for which it’s, incidentally, grossly overpowered). It came with a Fujitsu D2607 RAID controller, which is based on the LSI SAS2008 (“Falcon”) chipset. Unfortunately, its firmware is old and only barely supports drives in JBOD mode with some issues (I want to use software RAID 5), and also does not support drives larger than 2TB.
Interestingly, LSI uses the same SAS2008 chipset on both their higher-end RAID cards and lower-end SAS HBAs. There are, in fact, two different classes of devices, with completely different Linux drivers, that are implemented using the same chip: MegaRAID/iMR (the full-featured hardware managed RAID solution) and MPT2SAS (a simpler device which comes in two firmware variants: IR, with support for basic hardware RAID0/1/10, and IT, which is just a plain HBA with no RAID support). I use two SAS disks in hardware RAID1 as boot drives, and four SATA disks in software RAID5 as data drives, so I’m interested in the IR mode firmware, which has good support for passing through plain drives straight to the OS but still lets me have a hardware RAID1 volume to boot off of.
There is in fact quite a bit of documentation on how these LSI-based cards can be “crossflashed” to different firmware versions, from different vendors and in different modes. Unfortunately, most of this documentation is of the form “download these random tools and run them in this order, worked for me!“—nobody seems to have done any serious analysis. There are over half a dozen tools potentially involved depending on which mode you’re coming from and going to, and countless firmware variants. Some tools only work with some firmwares, and the tools themselves are available for different combinations of DOS, Windows, UEFI, and Linux, depending on which tool and which version you stumble across.
Even more unfortunately, the Fujitsu card seems to be a bit oddball, with only a few people reporting a successful crossflash, and that involving a really bizarre dance through 3 different firmwares. I tried it, and it certainly didn’t work for me. So I ditched all of that and made it work the right way. Here’s how.
LSI firmware basics
First things first: one nice thing about these cards is that you can’t brick them, as long as your BIOS lets you turn off Option ROM loading. Low-level recovery is always possible. Just make sure you write down your SAS address before starting, as you’ll have to write that back if you wipe and flash from scratch.
There are actually 3 different types of nonvolatile memory on these cards: there is an “SBR”, which is actually just a serial EEPROM containing the core information about the card (but no actual firmware). Then there is the main Flash memory, which contains both the firmware that runs on the card (it has a PowerPC CPU) and the Option ROM that runs on the host, as well as other misc bits. Finally, there is an nvSRAM (MRAM memory, the modern descendant of core memory!) that holds settings and buffers.
To crossflash a card to a different firmware, you first need to write the SBR corresponding to the type of card that you want (iMR or IT/IR). Then you can wipe the flash memory and flash whatever firmware you need.
To flash the SBR, the only tool available seems to be a small DOS binary called
megarec.exe. This tool works on a “dead” card, and doesn’t care whether the
card is in iMR or IT/IR mode.
Supermicro actually provide tools and documentation on how to crossflash their
SAS2008 based cards between MegaRAID and IT/IR modes, so I recommend going to
their page if you
need to get ahold of
Unfortunately, this does mean you need to put together a FreeDOS USB boot disk or similar. I recommend these prebuilt bootable USB images if you just want something ready to go. Picking the HIMEMX boot config works best.
You should probably back up your SBR first (which, by the way, also contains your SAS address):
megarec -readsbr 0 sbr-bak.bin
Then write the new SBR:
megarec -writesbr 0 sbr.bin
Wiping the flash is recommended at this point:
megarec -cleanflash 0
Unfortunately, that didn’t work for me: it only wiped half of the flash (8 out
of 16MB) before erroring out. My guess is that this version of
properly support my Flash chip. However, this doesn’t seem to cause major
issues; presumably, wiping the first half of flash is more than enough to make
sure no remnant firmware is running and the card comes up in a clean state.
So what SBR should you use? At first I used the Supermicro
keep reading. What is critical is that you pick an SBR for the correct mode of
your card: an iMR one if you want full MegaRAID mode, or an IT/IR one if you
just want the MPT2SAS mode. The SBR determines which mode the card comes up in,
and its PCI ID which identifies it to the host as one or the other kind.
As we’ll see, though, the SBR isn’t nearly as mysterious as you might assume, judging by the fact that they get tossed around but nobody seems to have bothered to throw one in a hex editor yet. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
Here’s where it gets all over the place. There are different firmware flashing
tools depending on which mode you’re in (iMR or IT/IR), and which OS you use.
I’ll be discussing only the IT/IR flash tool, which is called
I tried a bunch, but what worked best for me was the UEFI version. The DOS ones wouldn’t work due to some missing BIOS functionality in my UEFI BIOS, while the Linux ones only work if the card is already functional, not if it has been wiped (since they rely on the kernel driver to talk to the card, and that won’t come up if the card is dead).
I used the P19 version of the LSI
sas2flash.efi tool. To use it, boot into an
EFI shell with the tools on a FAT32 formatted disk (e.g. USB drive), and:
cd fs0: sas2flash.efi -o -f 2118ir.bin -b mptsas2.rom
2118ir.bin is the firmware that you want to flash (I used the P19
IR firmware from LSI), and mptsas2.rom is the Option ROM (I used version
07.19.00.00 of the standard BIOS ROM, but I’ll probably try an UEFI version next
time I get a chance to mess with the server, see how that works).
Then you should write back the original SAS address:
sas2flsh -o -sasadd 5000112233445566
At first, I had issues getting this to work at all: the UEFI versions would
detect the card and attempt to boot it, but fail. However, I think I was hitting
a strange interaction with my board’s UEFI implementation. I was doing this on
a consumer miniITX board, not the server, since the server takes ages to boot,
but consumer hardware probably has a less reliable UEFI implementation. I
eventually discovered that booting FreeDOS, flashing the SBR with
using Ctrl-Alt-Delete to warm-reboot, and going to a UEFI shell would allow
sas2flash.efi to boot the card properly properly (but only once, I had to
reboot and repeat the process for subsequent invocations).
Unfortunately, here I hit the first issue with flashing this Fujitsu card, which other people had also reported:
Chip is in RESET state. Attempting Host Boot... Firmware Host Boot Successful. Mfg Page 2 Mismatch Detected. Writing Current Mfg Page 2 Settings to NVRAM. Failed to Validate Mfg Page 2!
This is what someone purportedly worked around by using a strange combination of tools and firmwares, which didn’t work for me, but we can do better. What is this Mfg Page 2? I have no idea. Why is it validating it? There should be nothing to validate, as I’m flashing the card from scratch. This sounds like an attempt to prevent crossflashing by making sure that e.g. the vendor ID does not change.
So instead of trying to come up with a Rube-Goldberg solution as seems to be
popular with these LSI cards, I threw
sas2flash.efi into IDA. It took 5
minutes to find the function responsible for the
Mfg Page 2 message (via
string search) and patch out the check. Interestingly,
compiled into EFI Byte Code (EBC), a platform-independent bytecode architecture,
so it should work for both 32-bit and 64-bit EFI implementations. This didn’t
really make it any harder to patch, though: IDA can disassemble EBC, and the
patch was so obvious I didn’t even need to look up the EBC instruction encodings
to work out what to patch.
-0000CC00: 72 84 70 00 1F C4 05 47 C2 03 77 48 7C 00 01 00 r.p....G ..wH|... +0000CC00: 72 84 70 00 1F C4 05 47 C2 03 77 48 7C 00 00 00 r.p....G ..wH|...
With that patch, the flashing process completed successfully (actually, I had
to run it again after a reboot to get the BIOS flashed, probably due to the
aforementioned UEFI issues). Grab the patched
Victory! Time to stick the card back into the server, plug the SFF connectors back in, and boot. Except… turns out the card only sees 3 drives. One connector’s worth. The other connector is dead. This was also reported as an issue by someone. They hadn’t managed to Rube-Goldberg their way out of this one.
I had a hunch here. One connector working and not the other one is a bit strange. The chip only has 8 ports, and they are connected straight to the connectors with no intervening logic. There is nothing “special” that the Fujitsu card can possibly require to enable both connectors. However, sometimes, high-speed interfaces like these have configuration bits that do things like flip the polarity of the signal lines, or rearrange them in some way. It’s possible that the Fujitsu card requires a slightly different config. What’s that SBR all about, anyway?
Demystifying the SBR
What is inside that SBR? It’s only 256 bytes. Is it secret boot code? Encrypted information? Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin wallet?
Turns out comparing a few SBRs you can find around is enough to deduce the interesting bits.
00000000 61 f6 22 61 f7 36 4f b3 f8 00 d7 91 00 10 72 00 |a."a.6O.......r.| 00000010 00 00 04 01 34 17 77 11 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |....4.w.........| 00000020 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................| 00000030 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................| 00000040 00 0c 5d 00 5c 30 5a 14 75 05 10 ab 61 f6 22 61 |..].\0Z.u...a."a| 00000050 f7 36 4f b3 f8 00 d7 91 00 10 72 00 00 00 04 01 |.6O.......r.....| 00000060 34 17 77 11 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |4.w.............| 00000070 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................| 00000080 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 0c 5d 00 |..............].| 00000090 5c 30 5a 14 75 05 10 ab 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |\0Z.u...........| 000000a0 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................| 000000b0 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................| 000000c0 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................| 000000d0 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 50 00 11 22 33 44 55 66 |........P..W.z..| 000000e0 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 a6 |...............a| 000000f0 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |................|
- PCI Vendor and Product ID (little-endian)
- PCI Subsystem Vendor and Product ID (little-endian)
- Interface mode (iMR: 0x10, IR/IT: 0x00)
- Copy of bytes 0x00-0x4b (Mfg Page 2?)
- SAS address and checksum
The checksum is simply calculated such that the sum of all bytes including the checksum byte, mod 0x100, is 0x5b.
The above highlighted bits were the only differences between the Supermicro
IR SBR, the Supermicro iMR SBR, and the original Fujitsu iMR SBR that I had
backed up… including that lone little mystery
yellow byte, which was 04 in the Fujitsu SBR, but
07 in every other SBR I’d seen. Could this be the magic fix for the connector
issue? Only one way to find out: patch up the SBR (both copies), fix the
checksum, write it with
megarec, and see what happens.
Did it work? You bet. All drives detected. Victory.
Grab the patched SBR here. This one keeps the Fujitsu subsystem IDs, but is in IT/IR mode. It’s actually the one above, but with the SAS address section blanked out, as seems to be expected from “generic”/vanilla SBRs.
15 minutes of reverse engineering beats trying every possible firmware and tool combination out there hoping to stumble upon something that works by accident :-)