I was reading the post of Didier about Kemp on the Dell R320 hardware and I was writing a comment, which became quite some text, so I thought let’s make a blog out of it.
I’ve been using the Dell Lifecycle Controller (LCC) for a while now, to update firmware and deploy operating systems on the servers. And I’ve seen lots of issues, mostly resolved by just updating the (Drac) Firmware. But I’ve learned much more while using the Drac. I spend quite some time on those and by writing them down, I hope I can save you the time.
- On the 1.x versions the LCC is called system services and in the very early versions its by default disabled. You can enable it in the drac (ctrl-e). Updating it from a very early version can only be done from an OS (just install any version of Windows and overwrite it later). You can find the download when filling in the servicetag of your system on support.(euro.)dell.com.
- I found I get the best results with the FTP (ftp.dell.com) to get firmware catalogs and the firmware itself. Off-course you need to have ftp access from your Drac IP but you can use (authenticated) proxy users as well. It’s really fast and easy on the Drac 7/8 versions. If you need to troubleshoot: Don’t trust the “Test Network Connection” link in the second step of the platform update though: It assumes you can ping ftp.dell.com, which isn’t always possible and completely unnecessary for ftp downloads. Also, if you need to configure your network, do so from the main LCC page and not from the popup when you are in the firmware update screen: Else it just doesn’t want to save the network settings and the ftp connection will fail.
- The other options, like booting to sbuu (Dell Server Build Utility) which gives you the same options is a hassle, the download is _very_ slow and booting from it from the ISO isn’t very fast. And you need the SUU iso for the firmware updates. Also, the newest sbuu/suu can be very hard to find on older systems (i tend to go to a newer system and download from there). Also, I’ve had my fights with the dell download managers and gave up and just download through the web download. When that fails, I’ve downloaded with Filezilla straight from the ftp.dell.com, but that requires that the url can be seen from the support.(euro).dell.com downloads. I do this by downloading using the web browser download in Firefox and lookup the “copy download link”. I would avoid the sbuu/suu option if possible, but if you are going this way, be sure to download your sbuu/suu days before the hardware arrives, nothing is more frustrating to spend days on downloading those files when your hardware is just sitting there.
- Be sure to always run the firmware updates twice. Sometimes one firmware update gets in the way of another, although in the drac8 there is some logic applied (like updating the Drac itself last).
- The drac versions up till 6 can be a bit unstable, enable ssh on it (in the drac management page) so you can give it a reboot, without turning off the server. Login with SSH and run racadm racreset. If there’s already an operating system installed with the Dell open manage tools. You can also execute racadm racreset on a command line. This can be needed if you have .iso file mount issues.
- The activeX control the drac used isn’t multi user aware (like on a RDSH server which has multiple admins) systems, use the java plugin instead.
I’ve used Drac cards for quite a while now, the very early versions only had a possibility to show text, so after Windows starting booting, there was no screen anymore. They were meant to set bios settings and give the system a reset, nothing more. Compared to those early versions they have come a long way and with the LCC integrated the deployment gets quite easy. In my opinion, version 8 is quite mature and much more than remote control of the server. It’s a nice way to standardize your firmware updates and OS deployments.
update: I found out on a R630 the ftp option does not always give the most current available versions, the bios version available on the support.(euro.)dell.com website was newer than the ftp offered me in the LCC. This is clearly a quality control issue at Dell and I’ve told Dell support about this failure on their side. Clearly if we need to check the firmware updates ourselves, whats the use of an automated version? As if I like to check all the 100 available updates on the website per type of server to see if they might be newer?? I’m hoping this is just a one-off exception, because this would be such a waste of time..
update2: In a contrained environment where the internet was not available, access to ftp.dell.com was not enough. It could download the catalog, but individual downloads failed. A quick fix was to add the Dell Public IP range to allowed hosts (just for the Dell drac IP’s) to 22.214.171.124/16.
update3: You can’t use the vFlash slot for embedded OS’es. Or.. You might, but it’s not intended for that use. Here is a thread about the use case. If you want to make sure, call Dell support and let me know what they told you.
update5: I had an 10 year old server which I didn’t have the logins for. I found an utility Dell iSM which lets you reset the drac easily with powershell. Btw, an console session wouldn’t start, I found out java8 wasn’t released 10 years ago so i just used an old java version 7.0.5..
update6: A new blogpost on the 13/14G servers with the option to do firmware updates through the Drac.