Several weeks ago I bought this Adaptec 39160 64-bit PCI SCSI HBA in order to experiment with different HBAs:
The motivation was that although I’ve been a happy user of LSI HBAs (SCSI and SAS, PCI and PCIe) based on the MPT Fusion architecture, the Linux driver for the LSI SCSI HBAs is dumb, broken, or buggy, and ignores certain firmware settings. I have several older SCSI drives (early 1990s) which badly fail if the host tries to negotiate wide and/or fast transfers; the drive in some cases resets but usually hangs and must be power cycled.
All that can be avoided if the LSI HBA is set up to not use wide transfers and not negotiate fast transfers for the given SCSI ID. That works well with the LSI HBAs at POST time, but the Linux driver then just ignores the firmware settings and hangs the drive anyway—unlike the LSI Windows driver. So far I have not found any way to convince the Linux kernel drivers not to do that, and after perusing the source code I’m pretty sure there isn’t.
At any rate, I wanted to try an Adaptec SCSI HBA to check if it has the same problem in Linux (spoiler: it doesn’t) and ordered the 39160 pictured above off eBay. This is a nice dual channel HBA and (for an U160 SCSI controller) somewhat unusual for having both 68-pin and 50-pin connectors on the first channel; that feature looked useful.
The HBA I ordered was sold as new and at 10.50 Euro, it was a bargain. It arrived very promptly, in an original-looking Adaptec box, sealed in an anti-stat bag, and included a printed installation brochure as well as a driver CD.
The adapter works fine, and although it exhibits this extremely annoying error in my Intel Stormville board, I have no reason to think that this particular specimen is defective, especially given that the error does not show up on a Supermicro X7DWN+ board.
Whenever I get a new piece of hardware, I like to have a close look at it simply out of curiosity. When it was made? What chips were used? That’s when I noticed that the HBA just does not look like new.
The connectors and some of the chips have clear signs of wear that would not show on a new, unused HBA. There is some sort of whitish powder on the HBA, and the solder joints have odd cracks and don’t have that shiny new look.
Most bizarrely, the date stamps on the components just don’t make any sense. The PCB has a 1607 date stamp, which I assume must mean week 16 of 2007; the HBA is far too old for 2016, but it’s really kind of old even for 2007 given that the Adaptec 39160 was introduced circa 1999. The chips appear to have been manufactured between 2000 and 2002, and the product sticker (which covers the main chip) says 0105, indicating week 5 of 2001 (not week 1 of 2005; looking at photos of other 39160 HBAs makes it clear that it’s year first, week next).
It is common that some chips are older than the PCB they’re mounted on, but 5+ years does not add up. Especially when the chips really don’t look like new.
The terminator chips are another mystery. There are two sets of three chips (one set per channel). Typically, the chips would be all identical because of course they all came from the same batch, or maybe from two batches manufactured not far apart. But on this particular HBA, the date codes on the terminator chips, if I’m reading them right, range from week 33 of 2000 to week 34 of 2002. They’re all the same model (DS2119M) but only two of them have the same date code, and those two use a slightly different font and don’t look like they were made on the same production line.
So what happened with this board? I can’t quite figure it out. It works fine, does not look like a fake, and 2007 is really kind of late for an Ultra 160 HBA. Yet the CD in the package shows a 2004 copyright, and the files on the CD are from 2006, which actually would make sense for a HBA manufactured in 2007.
Does anyone know if this sort of recycling is or was a common industry practice, and what the point was? I just can’t figure it out. It’s hard to imagine how it could have made economic sense, but if that’s not what happened, how did this Frankenstein HBA came to be?