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Virtualization, Cloud, Infrastructure and all that stuff in-between

My ramblings on the stuff that holds it all together

Category Archives: iLo

HP Blade iLo – it’s 2010 and disappointingly still using a 100Mb NIC?

I wrote this original post over 2 years ago when I first had to build a set of HP blades in a c7000 chassis, having just taken delivery of another c7000 I had hoped that technology in the onboard administrator (OA) modules had progressed a bit further than it has.

For some reason they still only have 100Mb/s on board NICs, despite all other parts of this chassis using the all-singing and dancing Flex10 10Gb technology.

iLo/OA NIC Settings

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Blade Chassis Interconnect Bays – high speed goodness

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Whilst I realise PXE and Altiris etc. are the preferred method for building out large numbers of blades, it doesn’t work for everyone and particularly when it’s the 1st chassis in a Greenfield environment you need to get an OS on a blade before you can even start to setup a PXE server – Windows 2003 over iLo takes about 4 hours to install, 2008 is even worse – or have someone use a USB attached CD to install the 1st blade an OS physically in the DC.

I accept that the iLo is for out of band, emergency type access where the blade OS isn’t accessible – but in my experience there are a large number of scenarios where you need to use tools that boot from DVD/CD .ISO images in a hurry like data recovery, forensic analysis, bare-metal OS restore tools, P2V tools etc. and 100Mb/s just doesn’t cut it these days.

Also if you work in a secured environment then getting clearance to run great and useful tools like DHCP/PXE on networks that could be routed to/from outside the DC is hard, sometimes virtual .ISO media over an isolated and secured OoB network or a person on-site in the DC with physical media is the only acceptable method for moving data.

Gigabit networking is such a ubiquitous technology these days, and with the OA modules for a blade chassis costing around £1k GBP each (2 generally required for redundancy) you would think there is enough budget to go for Gigabit on-board and make the excellent virtual media features really usable in all scenarios

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On the plus-side, they have a fancy new BIOS splash screen 🙂

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…or is it just me?

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HP iLo Very Slow for Installing an OS

 

A bit of a disappointment; we’re trying to do a WinPE 2.0 CD/DVD based installation for our Windows 2003/2008 standard blade servers in an HP c7000 enclosure.

Installing from a .ISO image presented to the iLo via the virtual media applet is dog-slow (5-10 times slower than from a physical CD/DVD- why is this? – surely its technically possible to make this access run faster and GigE chipsets are cheap-as these days. I’ve been through every combination of switching/duplex/port config and even via a cable directly into the Blade OA.

The same issue seems to manifest itself on traditional rack mount HP servers – the iLo just isn’t fast enough to make this a workable solution, unless you are really patient.

I know we could use the RDP and do it as a PXE type installation over the network to each blade, but this doesn’t really achieve what I want…

Most customers maintain an OoB (Out of Band) network to which all of the management interfaces  (iLo, DRAC, etc.) are connected to. the reasoning for this is obvious; if you loose your main core switching network you can get access via a totally different physical network and path to assist in troubleshooting.

For this same reasoning I would like to use this method to build servers from a master boot CD/DVD image, you can present a .ISO image to a server via the virtual media applet on the iLo. We have a fully end-end build process that sets up the HP array controllers, flashes BIOS and installs the OS and drivers etc. from a CD/DVD.

We just update the boot CD .ISO file as required and its flexible and it doesn’t rely on any deployment infrastructure (PXE server, RDP server etc.) so we can port it between customers and data centres, VM’s and physical machines and do a bare-metal builds without requiring any build/network infrastructure in place.

This isn’t just limited to a Windows OS – I tried the same with an ESX installation; took over an hour (compared to 5-10 mins from a local CD)