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The 4 Most Common Problems with Host Adapters
Staff Writer

Host Bus Adapters (HBA) are an important part of any general use computer's server or in embedded systems, without a Host Adapter the computer would not be able to store memory. Host Bus Adapters are designed to connect computers with Storage Area Networks. Host Adapters are very similar to Network Adapters in the way that they are able to provide a computer with access to a Local Area Network (LAN) or a Wide Area Network (WAN).

Host Bus Adapters use fibre channels to connect the Storage Area Networks (SAN) to the different embedded devices or components the Host Bus Adapter is connected to. Host Bus Adapters generally are used to connect SCSI, Fibre Channel, and SATA devices and are basically able to free up the servers so they are able to perform pure application processing. Their functions include input/output translation and CPU offload. The Host Bus Adapter is able to map SCSI data to the Storage Area Network, reducing the time CPUs may spend on storage tasks. Host Bus Adapters are able to streamline the work that the servers need to do to save information to the memory.

Host Bus Adapters need to be properly integrated into the computer servers or embedded systems. Most of the common problems related to Host Bus Adapters deal with proper setup and ensuring that they are properly configured for the software or firmware the server or embedded system uses. There are other installation issues that the engineer needs to consider while setting up their Host Bus Adapter within the server or embedded system. We want to ensure that you are aware of some of these issues so that you are prepared before you begin the installation process of your Host Bus Adapter.


The 4 Most Common Problems that Happen with Host Adapters

When engineers are creating their own PCs, repairing their computers, or making upgrades, they may come into some problems when it comes to dealing with their Host Adapters. Understanding these problems and knowing how to fix them helps engineers understand how to keep their computers running properly.


1. Incorrect Host Bus Adapter Choice for the Operating System

Host Bus Adapters can be used on many different operating systems, including Solaris, Linux, AIX and other Unix flavors. However, they are not a one-size-fits all choice when it comes to each operating system. Some types of Host Bus Adapters are made for certain operating systems, but not others. When engineers are choosing the Host Adapter for their computer, it is important that they choose an Adapter that has been configured to work with their operating system and that is compatible with the drivers that the computer uses. A Host Bus system may be compatible with the operating system, but the computer may use certain drivers that will not work with the Host Bus Adapter. Both of these types of software need to be able to work with the Host Bus Adapter in order for everything to work properly.


2. Configuring the Host Bus Adapter with the Hardware

Once engineers understand that the Host Bus Adapter will work properly with the software in the computer, they need to pay attention to the hardware. Certain Host Bus Adapters will work with the hardware of a particular computer, but not the hardware of another, even if they use the same software. Before installing the Host Bus Adapter into the computer, engineers need to make sure that the host server or embedded system will be compatible with the Host Bus Adapter. It is important for engineers to check that the Host Bus Adapter will work within the physical space within the server as well as can be configured properly with the hardware already installed into the server or embedded system.


3. Configuring the Host Adapter with the Storage Area Network

Not only is it necessary for the Host Adapter to be properly configured to the operating system, but it also needs to work properly with the Storage Area Network. The Storage Area Network works on a specific fibre channel link speed. When engineers are choosing their Host Bus Adapter, they need to make sure that it can be configured to the same speed. For example, if the fibre channel switch maximum speed is 1 GB/sec, then the Host Bus Adapter needs to be set to that value. The correct configuration will ensure that the Host Bus Adapter will work correctly with both the computer's server as well as the Storage Area Network.


4. Incorrect Fibre Channel Cables

While this may not be an issue with the Host Bus Adapter itself, it is still often a problem that engineers face. Host Bus Adapters work with fibre channels in order to connect to the servers or embedded system as well as the Storage Area Network. Fibre channels make use of optical fiber cables within and between data centers. Certain cables will work with particular Host Bus Adapters but they will not work with others. Often times, the cables need to be purchased separately from the Host Bus Adapters themselves. It is important for engineers to do the research so that they use the correct cables.


Installing Your Host Bus Adapter Within Your Server or Embedded System

Before you begin on any installation of Host Bus Adapters, it is vital that you have all of the information that you may need. This way, you will not install an incorrect Host Bus Adapter for your computer. This will make sure that it is working as efficiently as possible to improve your CPU's performance.

Whenever you are installing a Host Bus Adapter, it is important to handle it with care and to keep it away from electrostatic discharge as the electrostatic sensitive components can be seriously damaged. Once the Host Bus Adapter has been installed, it is important to pay attention to the lights that will turn on or flash. These lights will inform you if there are any issues with the Host Bus Adapter or if there are any installation issues that require troubleshooting.

Host Adapters have a vital role when it comes to the embedded systems development industry. With their help, engineers can easily connect their computers to embedded systems environments to gain the ability to develop, program, or debug.

For example, the Aardvark™ I2C/SPI Host Adapter allows engineers to interface their embedded environment through I2C or SPI protocols as a master or a slave. Engineers who want to quickly program can also use Host Adapters to easily develop all of their applications. The Cheetah™ SPI Host Adapter is an example of a high-speed Adapter that has the ability to communicate over SPI at 40+ MHz.

Total Phase offers Host Adapters to help engineers interface with their embedded system. Contact us if you would like to learn more about how Total Phase can help or you are interested in having a personal demo to address your needs.

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