Compaq Smart Array 3200 Controller as a SCSI Controller

Liam Proven lproven at
Thu Jul 16 07:18:45 CDT 2020

On Thu, 16 Jul 2020 at 14:09, Chris Zach via cctalk
<cctalk at> wrote:
> Funny story about that: In 1990 I installed a Compaq systempro for
> Hechinger's that cost over $100,000.

I just about remember the SystemPro machines. One of my bigger clients
in my first job got one, but they hired a full-time guy to customise
their app for it, and he also became the sysadmin. A very early
example of devops, I suppose. So I never got to play around with it.

>  Had a full compliment of memory,
> max internal disk on the ATA controller,

ATA? That long ago?

Possible but unusual in a server, I would have thought.

What OS, just out of interest?

> and two external boxes of disks
> with the smart SCSI-ish controller. Massive system running Sybase SQL.
> Designed to replace a 24*7 mainframe and expected to be up all the time.

A single box? Oh dear.

> Got a call 2 months later: The system had blown a hole in one of the
> disk controllers and was down. Called Compaq, they got someone on a
> plane with a spare controller from the west coast and I drove out to
> meet them in the middle of the night so we could get the system up by
> morning.
> That was pretty insane. And pointed out that "mainframe" PC's didn't
> have anywhere near the redundancy or support of true mainframes.

Oh yes indeed.

I've had catastrophic hardware failures, but luckily, none that took
out a RAID controller. I've just heard the horror stories.

I finally left the support business in about 2011, but by then, it was
fairly standard practice to install VMware (the free VMware ESX
hypervisor if the company didn't have a paid vSphere site licence) on
all new boxes, then install the OS in that. Even if it was a dedicated
machine that only ran 1 OS ever. Because that way, if the machine
died, you could restore the backup onto a new, totally different box,
so long as it was running ESX, and it would Just Work™ with no driver
or activation issues -- the virtualised hardware was the same.

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