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NameSection 1
A typeDocumentation


DRAC III Remote

Floppy Boot

Enterprise Systems Group (ESG)

Dell OpenManage™

Systems Management

Dell White Paper

By Aurelian Dumitru

aurelian_dumitru@dellcom






Section 1 3

Executive Summary 3

Executive Summary 3

Section 2 4

Introduction 4

Introduction 4

Section 3 5

Appropriate Customer Scenarios for the DRAC III Solution 5

Appropriate Customer Scenarios for the DRAC III Solution 5

Section 4 6

Floppy Boot from Client or TFTP Server 6

Floppy Boot from Client or TFTP Server 6

Section 5 8

How to Use Remote Floppy Boot 8

How to Use Remote Floppy Boot 8

Section 5 12

DRAC III Versus Compaq iLO Remote Access Controller 12

DRAC III Versus Compaq iLO Remote Access Controller 12

Section 4 13

Conclusions 13

Conclusions 13

Appendix A 15

Figure 1: Sending the Remote Floppy Image from the Client to the DRAC III Server 6

Figure 2: Sending the Remote Floppy Image from a TFTP Server to the DRAC III Server 7

Figure 3: Remote Floppy Image Creation Utility 8

Tables

Table 1: Remote Floppy Boot on DRAC III vs. Compaq iLO 12


Section 1


Executive Summary

This paper provides a summary look at and a competitive comparison of the Remote Floppy Boot (RFB) feature of the Dell Remote Access Card (DRAC III).

This feature of the DRAC III is used to:

  • Boot the server to a particular configuration (i.e., DOS, Win95, Win98, etc.)

  • Perform remote BIOS/ESM updates

  • Run remote system configuration and diagnostics


Section 2


Introduction

The Dell Remote Access Card (DRAC III) is a PCI card that can be installed into Dell™ PowerEdge™ servers to provide remote access to the server. The key functions provided by DRAC III include:

  • High performance console redirection

  • Inspection of hardware sensors such as temperature, voltage, and fans

  • Access to hardware and alert logs

  • Ability to generate alerts, even when the system is down

  • Ability to power up and power down the system

  • Remote floppy boot operations

The DRAC III Remote Floppy Boot feature is a powerful tool used to perform management operations remotely over a LAN or phone line. Prior to DRAC II and DRAC III, these operations required that the administrator work on a server at its location. The features of the DRAC II and DRAC III are designed to improve productivity by simply removing the need to go to the system – whether it is down the hall or across the country.

Although the complete set of DRAC III features is currently available only on PowerEdge 8450 servers, the remote floppy boot feature can be used on any server that boots to a DOS partition. Current implementation does not support systems that boot to a non-DOS partition (i.e., systems that boot to EFI – Extensible Firmware Interface). For this type of system, a combination of DRAC III text console redirection and software installed on the host can be used to provide similar functionality.

This paper describes the remote floppy boot feature, including:

  • Section 3: Appropriate customer scenarios where remote floppy boot is useful

  • Section 4: Boot from client or TFTP Server: designing a path for the floppy image to be stored on the DRAC III

  • Section 5: How To Use Remote Floppy Boot

  • Section 6: Brief Competitive Analysis

Section 3


Appropriate Customer Scenarios for the DRAC III Solution

Scenario 1: Distributed Server Environment


Not long ago your company bought hundreds of servers, and a new version of the BIOS (or the firmware, etc.) is about to be released. You, the IT person, will need to update the BIOS component in all those servers, even though most of them are at remote locations.

What are you going to do?

Are you going to visit all the remote locations and do the update yourself? That may take awhile …

…or will you get on the phone with all these locations and tell them what to do? Even if everybody does their job correctly, for a period of time some systems will be out-of-sync. This may raise another set of issues for you and your colleagues.

Scenario 2: Centralized Server Environment


Or let’s say that your company instead bought ten or twenty systems and everything is located in a central computer room and running flawlessly. Then one day you get a message from Dell saying that there is a new firmware release available and you are invited to download it. You read the instructions and proceed to download, a relatively simple process, until … the power goes down, or somebody distracts you and you push the wrong key, or you have to leave for a meeting and a colleague takes over without fully understanding the process. The bottom line is that the firmware is most likely either gone or damaged, and you need help.

What are going to do?

Are you going to send the server back to Dell to be reprogrammed? Can you reprogram it yourself? How?

For users with issues comparable to those described in the scenarios above, the Remote Floppy Boot feature may help provide a resolution, and do so in a timely manner and at a low cost.

Section 4


Floppy Boot from Client or TFTP Server

There are two primary paths to use to set up a system to be able to boot from a floppy disk.

First, the image of the floppy disk can be sent from a client system over the Web or an intranet to be stored on the DRAC III card in the server. Next time the server boots -- whether by using another DRAC III feature – Server Reset Options – or through scheduled/maintenance reset, the BIOS loads the floppy image stored onto the DRAC III. Figure 1 illustrates sending the remote floppy image from the client system.



Figure 1: Sending the Remote Floppy Image from the Client to the DRAC III Server

Second, the image of the floppy disk can be sent from a TFTP server over the Web or an intranet to be stored on the DRAC III card in the server. Figure 2 illustrates sending the remote floppy image from a TFTP server to the DRAC III server. The steps for this process are as follow: (1) the floppy image is created and stored onto the TFTP server. At steps (2) and (3) the remote user logs on and “tells” the card where to get the image. At steps (4) and (5) the card loads the image.



Figure 2: Sending the Remote Floppy Image from a TFTP Server to the DRAC III Server

Section 5


How to Use Remote Floppy Boot

Once the path to the DRAC III is determined (the options are described in Section 4), it is possible to use the Remote Floppy Boot feature of DRAC III.

The first step to using Remote Floppy Boot is to create a bootable floppy disk with the applications that need to be loaded at boot time. To create the bootable floppy disk, create an image of the floppy disk using the Dell Floppy Image Creation Utility, which is available as part of the Dell Server Assistant (DSA) install CD or as a download from http://support.dell.com. Figure 3 shows a snapshot of this utility.



Figure 3: Remote Floppy Image Creation Utility

On the same install CD is a commandline version of this utility. The name of the graphic version is RemoteFloppyUtility.exe, while the Windows commandline version is called RemoteFloppy.exe. The commandline format is different for Windows and Linux. Consult the DRAC III User Guide for more detailed information on how to use the graphical interface or the commandline version.

Once created, the image can be stored in a local file system or it can be uploaded onto a TFTP server1 as demonstrated in Section 4. In the event of a system interrupt, the image can then be sent to the DRAC III, where it is stored in its memory. The DRAC III recognizes or “captures” the interrupt and can initiate a “floppy boot” from the image stored in its memory. (Modifications to the boot image may be necessary; please see instruction 8 below.)

When the image has been stored in a local file system or uploaded to a TFTP server, the next steps are as follow:

  1. Bring up the DRAC III User Interface.

  2. Open a browser window and enter the IP address of the DRAC III card to which you wish to connect.



  1. Log on;

  2. Select “Remote Access” > “Remote Floppy Boot”.



  1. If the image is stored onto a TFTP server, enter the IP address and the filename. If the image is stored onto a local file system, browse to it. Click “Apply Remote Floppy Boot Changes.” Once the transfer is complete, the user interface polls for and displays the new status of the remote floppy boot device. For detailed information about this user interface screen, consult the DRAC III User Guide.

  2. Select type of boot – boot once (it will boot off the DRAC III only once), boot always (boot off DRAC III always) or boot from physical drive. Click “Submit.” The new status is then provided.

  3. Reboot the system and watch the boot process for example by using console redirection. To get console redirection click the “Remote Access” tab followed by “Console Redirection.”

  4. In cases where modifications are needed to be made to the boot image (i.e., modify a script), there are two options:

    1. On the server: edit, make changes, save onto DRAC III Remote Floppy Boot –but prior to that the image needs to be marked Read/Write using the user interface. The image can be sent back to the client system and stored in a local file system. A new bootable floppy can be created using the same image utility. Consult the DRAC III User Guide for more information on how to use these settings.

    2. On the client: make changes to the original bootable floppy disk, create a new image and send it to the DRAC III card.


Section 5


DRAC III Versus Compaq iLO Remote Access Controller

Table 1 gives an overview of the functions of the Remote Floppy Boot feature of the DRAC III installed on a Dell PowerEdge 4600 versus the Compaq Integrated Lights Out (iLO) remote access controller installed on a ProLiant® 8500 based on testing done at Dell in February/March 2002.

Function

DRAC III

CPQ Lights Out

Comments

Image utility (free) – Graphic Interface
Yes
Yes




Image Utility (free) – Command Line Interface
Yes
No

Compaq provides only a graphic interface.

Send image from TFTP server
Yes
No

Compaq’s only method to send the image down is by loading it from local file system.

Modify the image after boot (server side)
Yes
Yes




Boot to specific configuration (DOS, Win95, Win98, etc.)
Yes
Yes




Run applications with network support
Yes
Yes

Upon loading network drivers from the floppy disk image

Perform (multi-floppy) installs/anti-virus
Yes
Yes

If it can run on DOS

Table 1: Remote Floppy Boot on DRAC III vs. Compaq iLO

(Information on the Compaq iLO is subject to change.)

Section 4


Conclusions

The DRAC III Remote Floppy Boot feature is designed to ease management of systems that are geographically distributed (as well as centralized), and also enable an administrator to restore functionality in the event of a system failure or human error. The DRAC III Remote Floppy Boot is designed to be fast, offer an array of options, and to have an interface that is user-friendly.

Please refer to the DRAC III Console Redirection white paper at http://www.dell.com/downloads/global/topics/openmanage/drac_3_redirect.doc for more information on other DRAC III features. These features include:

  • In-band configuration using IT Assistant, drscadm command line interface, and the Option ROM

  • Out-of-band management capabilities using a NIC, modem, or VT100

  • Full integration with other OpenManageTM products

  • Constant monitoring of system health;

  • Provides alerts of system events using alpha or numeric paging, email, SNMP traps;

  • Console Redirection (graphical & text);

  • Dead Server Management;

  • Access to SEL and POST logs;

  • Embedded web server supporting IE and Netscape;

  • Support for 32 & 64 bit platforms;

  • Operation from PCI power, external AC power adapter, and/or battery power


References


Cisco TFTP Server: http://www.cisco.com/pcgi-bin/tablebuild.pl/tftp




This White Paper is for informational purposes only. DELL MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EITHER EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS WHITE PAPER. Dell cannot be responsible for errors in typography or photography.

Dell , PowerEdge, and Dell OpenManage are trademarks of Dell Computer Corporation. Other trademarks and trade names may be used in this document to refer to either the entities claiming the marks and names or their products. Dell disclaims proprietary interest in the marks and names of others.

©Copyright 2002 Dell Computer Corporation. All rights reserved. Reproduction in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of Dell Computer Corporation is strictly forbidden. For more information, contact Dell.

Information in this document is subject to change without notice.

Appendix A

DRAC2 Remote Floppy Boot


The DRAC2 Remote Floppy Boot was added with version 2.4 of the firmware. The DRAC2 hardware needs to be at revision E or better to support this feature.

On DRAC2 the Remote Floopy Boot option is part of the Server Reset Options page. The user needs to mark the Remote Floppy Boot check box prior to resetting the server using the DRAC2 web console.

There is no need to create an image of the floppy in order to use the DRAC2 Remote Floppy Boot feature. Instead, the DRAC2 web console will “read” the content directly from the floppy that is inserted in the client station and send its content across the network.

The image that is saved on the DRAC2 card is not persistent. Every time the server resets, a physical floppy needs to be inserted in the client station.

1 For information on how to set up and use a TFTP server, consult the Cisco website at: http://www.cisco.com/pcgi-bin/tablebuild.pl/tftp

April 2002

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