Matt Pson Just another dead sysadmin blog


On using Cisco’s UCS servers as normal servers

"So you are using the whole Cisco UCS system ...and how?"

I have gotten the above question in some different flavors quite a few times lately. And the answer is: no we do not, we use them as normal, single, rackservers just as you would with a rackserver from any other vendor.

The Cisco C200 M2 comes with a decent CPU (has 2 CPU sockets) and a few slots for RAM (up to 192GB), 3 PCI Express slots (one is low-profile) and you can install up to 4 standard 3,5" SATA disks of  your choice (no more having to stick with what other vendors can supply) plus a very decent out-of-band management card as standard (compare DRAC or iLo) and all that at quite a lower price than a comparable system from say Dell. Sure, the standard included warranty and support is far from what Dell or HP offers but I'm sure that Cisco will happily supply that for an additional fee if you want. We recently saw a increase in baseprice of this system but it is still 25-50% off from the prices that Dell keeps flooding our mailboxes with (which I know is not the prices we would pay after phoning our Dell representative).

The Cisco C210 M2 is much the same basic system but still quite a bit different as it has 16 2,5" diskslots in a 2U chassis where you have to get the disks from Cisco (which can take quite some time if unlucky) and 5 PCI Express slots. Apart from those two things it seems that the C200 and C210 shares all other properties.

I have earlier reported about a newer system, the C260 monster (64 DIMM slots and 16 drives in a 2U chassis with the new Intel Xeon family processors!), but I have yet to see it in real life (and more importantly in a pricelist).

But yes, these are usable as normal rackservers without any modifications and provides good value in the low-end range of rackservers. I would recommend them to anyone just looking for a decent rackserver any day.


Installing Solaris via CIMC – nope, not possible

Well, actually it very much possible to install Sun Oracle Solaris via the CIMC on the C200/C210 servers as long as one does not rely on the 'Virtual Media' function to mount a iso-file to install from. The installation just grinds to a halt when it tries to figure out where the CD-Rom is. From the look of it the installer finds the physical drive and tries to attach itself to that for the rest of the installation and just ignores the virtual one.

Now if I had known that before I left work as going there, to the data centre,  just to insert a CD and go back home again seems like a lot of time for very little work (erhm... no, I'm not working from home again, am I?).


Bad request when accessing CIMC

While setting up a couple of Cisco UCS C210 M2 rackservers the other day (fine servers at a great value, thanks Cisco) one of them seemed to have a broken CIMC (Cisco Integrated Management Console, Cisco's version of iLO/DRAC). Trying to access it via a web browser just gave a "400 - Bad Request" and nothing else. The rest of the server was working okay but I didn't fancy standing in the datacenter installing it - I wanted the Java KVM to work.

Thankfully the CIMC wasn't all dead, it still responded to SSH and I was hoping to be able to update the firmware via the command line interface, knowing that I would have to find a TFTP server outside our lab (servers were already racked and ready for production except they needed ESXi installed). Interesting enough I found a way to avoid updating the firmware and still make it work, a long-shot but it gave me web access and KVM.

This is how (hopefully it'll help someone else):

$ ssh admin@esxi-03-cimc
admin@esxi-03-cimc's password:
esxi-03-cimc# scope cimc
esxi-03-cimc /cimc # scope firmware
esxi-03-cimc /cimc/firmware # show detail

Firmware Image Information:
Update Stage: NONE
Update Progress: 100
Current FW Version: 1.1.1
FW Image 1 Version: 1.1.1
FW Image 2 Version: 1.1.1
Boot-loader Version: 1.1.1

The server has 2 slots for firmware and it came installed with the same version in both. The long-shot I took was to activate the second firmware even though it was the same version.

esxi-03-cimc /cimc/firmware # activate 2
This operation will activate firmware 2 and reboot the BMC.Continue?[y|N]

And it worked, web access was enabled. Just to make sure I did the whole procedure again, reactivating the first firmware and web access was once again not working.

After web access was fixed I proceeded to update the firmware to a newer version as part of the initial configuration on all the servers just to be sure.

Note that all of our servers had CIMC Firmware 1.1.1 installed which was pretty old making us wonder how long our servers spent on the shelf before they were delivered to us. Judging from the manufacturing date it was more than a year. Our "new" servers were old already...