Mike Ault's thoughts on various topics, Oracle related and not. Note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are not contributing to the overall theme of the BLOG or are insulting or demeaning to anyone. The posts on this blog are provided “as is” with no warranties and confer no rights. The opinions expressed on this site are mine and mine alone, and do not necessarily represent those of my employer.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Ebay Comments

I do a lot of buying and some selling on Ebay. One facet of Ebay is the comments section where you can enter a comment and rating for a buyer or seller with whom you have had a transaction.

About a month ago I bought some hard drives for my Nexstor 18fc array from an Ebay seller. According to his listing these were Seagate model ST118202FC hard drives. The SAN array I use for my real work (believe it or not I do have a real job) uses this model of drive and I needed to increase my storage space (well, actually I wanted to increase my input/output rate and the increase in storage space is a side-effect.) I found a companion drive to the ones currently in the array (I thought) so I put in my bid, got the drive for a very good price and when I received it, it installed just fine in my array and spun up with green lights across the control panel.

So from the previous paragraph it would seem all was right with the world correct? Well, then I tried to access the drive to format it and make it useful for the system. I am afraid the drive would not respond to any of the low level format or high level commands I issued. I looked carefully at the startup file log, sure enough, was a ST118202FC hard drive, but wait, there was a CLAR18 following the designation. What this means was that the firmware for the drive was modified by a SAN provider (in this case I believe EMC) to be specific for a particular SAN, in this case a CLARIION system. No biggie I thought to myself, I’ll just reburn the firmware, well, you can’t do that with EMC firmware unless you go to another version of EMC firmware, which kind of defeated the purpose for me. Here is how the listing described the drive:

You are bidding on a Seagate Cheetah 18.2GB Fibre Channel 10,000 RPM Hard Drive with a Dell Tray.
Seagate Model #: Cheetah / ST118202FC
Technical Features:

External Data transfer Rate: 100MBps
Seek Time: 6 ms
Average Latency: 3ms
Buffer Size : 1MB
Interface: Fibre Channel

Happy Bidding!

Manufacturer: SEAGATE
Model: ST118202FC

As you can see, no mention of the CLAR18 designation that would be critical to determine compatibility.

Ok, obviously these EMC drives were not going to work for my Nexstor array.

On their shipping receipt they put:

“If, for any reason, you are unsatisfied with your purchase, please contact me at ebaysales@threesalegroup.com with your order number 12551 and the reason for your dissatisfaction. I will make all reasonable efforts to resolve the issue.”

I emailed the representative from the company I purchased them from, explained the situation and asked to return the drive. Here is the email trail:

Subject: eBay Item #170024231254
This disk appears to be a pull from an EMC Clariion or related architecture. Unfortunately that means that it has EMC proprietary microcode burned into its firmware rendering it useless in anything but another array of a similar type. It identifies itself as ST118202 CLAR18 on spin up and won't allow format commands or partitioning commands (reports its size as zero) afraid this is just so much spinning rust and DOA as far as I am concerned. If you don't have something that you know can be accessed by normal arrays then I will return it for my money back. Thanks.

Their Customer Service wrote:
This item only has a DOA warranty. The auction states: This item is represented as accurately as possible; we do not guarantee compatibility please check your part numbers.

(Right, like deliberately leaving off the CLAR18)

To which I responded:
You did not provide the complete part number, the other drives in the array have the same part number except that they do not have the CLAR18 add on which indicates yours were pulled from a Clarion array and which you left off of the description. Had I known the full part number (which I assumed you had provided) I wouldn't have bought them. You did not provide accurate information.

Their Customer Service wrote:
Why didn't you ask? That is what the terms tell you in the auction that you should do. It also states that you should not assume anything.

(So I assume I would need to have a complete list of all incompatible possible microcodes and SANs and call them with a detailed question about this…like their order taker on the other end would know…)

To Which I responded:
You know what? Forget it, I'll just note this in my feedback on Ebay and then resell it, properly labeled and probably get more for it than you did. Thanks for nada.

Their Customer Service wrote:
No problem, just remember that the feedback goes both ways. Thanks...

So, basically I was told that I should have foreseen that the drive might have had its firmware overwritten by a vendor and I should have asked before I bought it. I explained there was no way of knowing this without seeing the full model number (which they hadn’t provided) which required me to install the drives before I could see the serial numbers. Essentially I was told to pack sand and they wouldn’t take the drives back or refund my money.

Being a man of my word I entered the following comment for them on Ebay:

“Was not satisfied, didn't give complete description of item, would not take back”

And here is how they responded:


Extortion? Asking them to stand by their product or I would tell people they didn’t, extortion? A bit of an over reaction I felt. Who was extorting who? Oh, and what was the transaction final amount?


This company, Three Sale Group LTD, I will never have dealings with again, nor will I recommend them.

I also purchased 6 additional drives from a second source on Ebay, unfortunately they also were CLAR18, which also wasn’t indicated in the description, but, when I pointed that out, they handled it as a DOA and fully refunded my money, this company, Online Data Solutions, Inc., I will recommend to others and will use again in a heartbeat.

However, this all has a happy ending, I found 18-72 gb drives for my array on Ebay from Morgen Industries, Inc., they were professional, courteous and knowledgeable and I would buy from them in a heartbeat and recommend them to others.

So remember, Caveat Emptor and ask every possible question you can think of from Ebay sellers unless their description of the object being bought is detailed and precise.

Anyone need some Clariion compatible 18 gb drives? Cheap! I also have some 18 gb Nexstor comaptible drives and a complete Nexstor 8s array....if anyone is interested


Nobby said...

Clariion firmware tends to play reasonably nicely in direct-attach configurations and with less fussy hardware RAID controllers such as the Mylex DAC-FFX family.

If you have a direct-attach JBOD the problem is likely to be the 520-byte sector format, which is not supported by Windows, Linux or Solaris. The drive can be low-level formatted with 512 byte sectors if you have a low-level format utility that can send the appropriate commands.

I've had a lot of success with sg3_utils, which is open-source and runs on (at least) linux. This has a utility (sg_format) which I have used to re-purpose disks with clariion and netapp firmware (probably slicing quite a bit of resale value off in the process but WTF).

sg_format can resize the 520 byte sectors to 512 bytes with a command along the lines of:

sg_format --size=512 --format /dev/sg1 &

I've had both Clariion and Netapp disks work in the following configurations:
Direct attach JBOD (linux, QLogic 2200)
Direct attach JBOD (windows, QLogic 2200)
Direct attach JBOD (windows, ICP-vortex RAID)
Hardware RAID (Mylex DAC-FFX) on a Powervault 660.

Note that PV660's are a re-badged Eurologic SANBloc, and drivers and management software can be downloaded off Adaptec's web site.

Mike said...

I'll try that, I'll drop a 18 in a slot where I have one bad drive and see if I can reformat one of these.


Noons said...

you probably should report that seller to ebay: IME, they're pretty good at traking down problems and making sure sellers abide by general rules. In your case, clearly there was not sufficient information about the items.

Then again, it's all related to price: for 15 bucks I probably wouldn't worry too much.

Another thing you could try is to give Steve Gibson - of Spinrite fame - at www.grc.com a quick email to see if he has any ideas on how to overcome the formatting: he knows a thing or two about low level firmware on disks.

Mike said...

I'll do that.



Richard said...

Noons said: "Then again, it's all related to price: for 15 bucks I probably wouldn't worry too much."

The price is not the issue, though, is it? When you pay for something, it should (as we say in the UK) "Do what it says on the tin".

$15, or $15M, no difference: if it's been wrongly described, then to the buyer, it's just junk!

Shame on the vendor for misleading information, and double shame for (a) not resolving the (what should have been to them) incredibly minor issue and (b) smearing a customer's name, when he's RIGHT!!!

Mike said...


You are correct, price really isn't the issue, taking proper care of customers is the real issue.


Jeffro said...

I bought a bunch of the 72's that turned out to be clar72, I'll have to build a slackware box so I can try low level formatting. Right now I'm using scsi tools by moojit. The qlogic 2100 low level didn't cut it, kill disk and wipe don't do it so if this fails its off to slack and sg3_utils. What I don't understand is why you cant have access to the micro code....

Since this is all a home project I bought an icp vortex 1gbps raid with 128MB ram for 125, the drives st173840fc I scored for 15 each delivered. I thought it would be nice to replace all my 36DRHL IBM's with these and double my space without physically doubling it.

I hope I havent bought 300 bucks worth of useless drives!!

Alan D. said...

Hello All,

I'm so glad I've found this blog... I just bought a Clariion EMC2 AX150sCI from Dell... and they told me that I can use any
SATA 2 drives with the machine... and now they are telling me that I have to get the HD from them because it has a special "dell formatting"... If I were to do a low-level format on this, would it work? What kind of formatting do I need to do to make this work?

Thanks in advance for all of your help.

Mike said...

Thanks Nobby! I was finally able to make use of your advice and it worked!

Tina said...

i am very concerned and frightened to buy things on ebay because ebay and piratebay sells pirated software and stolen goods, stay well away from ebay, ebay looks like an organised criminal website.