The Dell and the DRAC – Freezing Frustration

Well the last couple of weeks have been fun.

We took delivery of our first order of Dell Servers. It was exciting to have a new vendor as HP drove me to despair as many would know. 2 R810s and 3 R910s sitting on a bench in the build room. “Ben can you please run these up for us and document the build process – we need to get the R910s deployed in the next couple of weeks”. No Problem.

Did all my build documentation on an R810. Nice and easy. Learnt about the iDRAC interface, and booting the VMWare image from the SD Cards. It was all a bit easy and I could imagine with a little bit of practice we could have these machines built and deployed in about 10 mins per box. But then I started work on building the R910s….

Using the Universal Server Configurator utility, I quickly found that it was difficult to use the keyboard and mouse – stop start, stop start – in my days of programming I’d call this a buffer issue and not being flushed in a timely manner. To best illustrate this, here is a video.

OK, no problem, might just be an issue with this one server, lets try another. Nope, same problem. In the end I had the following troubleshooting information:

  • All of the R910s we bought had this problem (3 in the build room and more at a storage warehouse)
  • The problem was only within the Lifecycle Controller/Universal Server Configurator. Keyboard/mouse worked fine from VMWare Console, BIOS.
  • Problem was ONLY with the R910s, I had no problems with the R810s
  • Problem manifested itself from the Local Console and the iDRAC remote console.

I’ll spare you the details of support. About one and a bit weeks later a new main board, iDRAC interface and Riser card arrive with a Engineer. Replace the mainboard and the problem is still there 😦 Replace the Riser Card and iDRAC and the problem is gone! yay! 🙂

So now we know the problem was either the mainboard or the Riser Card/iDRAC.

Please be aware that in no way am I saying that there is a fault with this particular model of server. This is something that I have seen with a limited number of machines during the course of my work.