Dell

Work is coming along nicely with the Server Room, we’ve now removed the last Cisco switch from our infrastructure and the HP 5400R series switch is deployed replacing the 2530 that was in its place; over time we’ll be bringing more fibre from our edge switches into this room as well hence the number of SFP+ ports on the 5400R. The entire front of the cabinet is now populated with hardware or a blanking panel as well (panels available from Comms Express) to keep things looking tidy. I wish there were a little more that I could do with the cables coming into the 5400R however with a very narrow rack there’s not much that can be done.

Some interesting things have come out of both Rucks and PaloAlto recently in that they offer Hyper-V compatible VMs for their services which could free up a further 3U of space and remove a further 4-6 cables out of the picture.

Having recently purchased a Dell T430 tower server which we will be using for backup and Hyper-V replica I thought I’d share some photos of what the castors (an option in place of either the rack mounting kit or the floor stand feet) look like!

The castor assembly comes in a separate box to the server and only takes a minute or two to install; I perhaps was expecting slightly larger wheels however they do a good job all the same on hard floors.

WP_20151112_10_34_28_RawAs part of an ongoing project to improve the room today we’ve been installing a set of rails for a pair of Dell PowerEdge T430 servers. You may have noticed the ‘T’ in the T430 to indicate they are tower servers but Dell provides a 5U rack conversion kit which is pretty easy to install.

One small question came up while putting the rails in – ‘Where do I mount the rails in relation to the 5U of space in the rack?’ to answer that question the bottom of the rails go at the bottom of the 5Us of space. Hopefully the image to the right illustrates this better!

A blank csr.txt fileA interesting quirk of an issue with this one; when generating a CSR to secure the iDRAC (version 8) interface on a Dell T430 server it appears that you can’t use an apostrophe in any of the fields else you are presented with a empty/blank csr.txt file (see right).

The work around is simple if a little annoying (especially when CSRs generated with other tools allow apostrophes) in that you remove the apostrophe from all of fields in the request. I’d imagine this is the same for other special characters as well.

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2012 R2 end to end deployment

In this post I’ll be going through the installation of Hyper-V Server on our Dell T430 hosts. Remember you can download and use Hyper-V Server 2012 R2 for free (link) however you must still license the guest Operating Systems.

I’ll be configuring a 80GB partition for the OS with the remainder of the storage set aside for the virtual machines – remember this is a UEFI based system so you can have single partitions over 2TB in size (in this case we will have a 2.7TB data partition) on the same disk as the boot partition.

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2012 R2 end to end deployment

In this post I will be covering the basic configuration of iDRAC as well as getting ready for the installation of Windows Hyper-V Server 2012 R2.

In this server configuration I have plugged a network cable into port 1 of the on-board NIC which will (initially) be used to host iDRAC, the management connection for the OS as well as shared with the first virtual switch. At the time of writing there was a limited number of free network ports on the server room switch – a later post will show a fully configured setup.

First up booting into iDRAC…

Next is configuring the iDRAC interface and setting a password to limit access; not that with iDRAC Express the port used by iDRAC can also be shared with the Operating System; with DRAC Enterprise you get a dedicated management card which has its own NIC.

Finally iDRAC is particularly useful with a quick and easy setup of your RAID array as well as streamlining the installation of Windows Server by presenting the installer with a complete set of drivers at install time (saving a significant amount of time later on by removing the need to hunt down and install the drivers yourself!).

In the next post I’ll be going through the steps to install Windows Hyper-V Server 2012 R2.

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2012 R2 end to end deployment

Dell T430s

Time for a new series of posts! In this series I will be looking at the end to end deployment of a pair of Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2012 R2 hosts along with supporting services including networking and backup. This kind of deployment is an excellent option for anyone who is looking to run Virtualisation but without the cost of VMWare or a SAN (Storage Area Network). In this first post I’ll outline the goals of this project along with the hardware I’ll be using.

Goals

  • To configure iDRAC 8 Express for out of band management
  • To install Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2012 R2
  • To configure network settings and enable remote management

A few points to note…

  • Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2012 R2 is completely free! (allowing you to access the latest Hyper-V technology regardless of your licencing level)
  • You must still have a valid licence for any guest operating systems (in this case I am using two Server 2008 R2 Datacentre licences as there will be no VMs using anything higher than Server 2008 R2)
  • Datacentre licencing allows you to run an unlimited number of VMs on that host at that OS level or lower (subject to extra licencing concerns over additional CPU sockets)
  • Hyper-V Server is effectively a super cut down version of Windows Server Core – there are no different drivers and the management tools are just the same
  • You can find out more about Hyper-V Server on TechNet here – https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh833684.aspx

Hardware

Dell T430 Hosts

Purchased specifically for this project these two hosts have been configured identically with the aim of N+1 redundancy in the environment.

  • 1x Intel Xeon E5-2620 v3 2.4Ghz 6 core CPU
  • 6x8GB DDR3 2133mhz RAM (48GB total)
  • Dell PERC H730 RAID Controller 1GB Cache
  • 6x600GB 10K SAS Drives
  • Dual Hot Plug Power Supplies
  • 3 Dual Port 1Gbit NICs
  • iDRAC8 Express

These Dell servers really have a lot going for them – as well as being UEFI enabled they come with iDRAC (for out of band management and simple OS installs) as well as plenty of RAM slots, pull out tags on the front with the service tag number, USB 3.0 and hot plug power supplies. Finally I’m really quite impressed with how quiet they run – although they will be housed in a dedicated air conditioned server room I could certainly see one of these as being ok in a well ventilated cupboard somewhere in a branch office like environment.

A bit of an interesting one today; while provisioning a pair of shiny new Dell T430s I had obtained and uploaded a valid 3rd party signed SSL certificate to the iDRAC interface with a view to ensuring that whenever an administrator accessed the interface they didn’t get a invalid certificate warning.

However after uploading the certificate and restarting iDRAC I was presented with an error message in Internet Explorer starting that ‘The security certificate provided by this website is not secure’. In researching this it appeared that the site was either running a very old version of SSL or that the certificate had become ‘mangled’ in the server somehow. Either way Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and Firefox did not allow me to bypass this error message.

On way to resolve this issue was by accessing the server via SSH and running some commands (see screen shot sequence below for the details)…

Recently I came across a need to update the BIOS of a number of Dell PCs, given that the PCs were due to be re-imaged it made sense to perform the update as part of the System Centre Configuration Manager 2012 task sequence process.

To kick this process off you will need

  • A need to update the BIOS – you should only update the BIOS on a PC if a later revision fixes a particular issue you are having (in my case it was a wake on LAN issue)
  • The BIOS update files from the Dell Support site – on occasion you may need to perform a staged update process, for example on the Dell Optiplex 390 to go from Revision A01 to A10 you must first update to A02.

The first step of this process requires that you put the BIOS update in as a Package, follow the guide below to see how this is done.

Please note – this guide only applies to the ‘newer’ packaged style of Dell BIOS updates, the steps to identify if you have one of the newer style packages can be seen in the first three screen shots.

Next you need to include the package in the SCCM task sequence, during the process you will need this WMI query (contained within the download to make copy/paste easy)

  BIOS WMI query (83 bytes, 2,031 hits)

A few points to note

  • You do not want the BIOS update to trigger the restart – (I have never been able to get this to work without causing a error and stopping the task sequence)
  • If you have one of the older BIOS versions you may find this list of legacy command line switches useful.