As I mentioned in my previous post, I had not much trouble getting my server to work in the Serverius datacenter with the exception of IPMI. This feature is built-in on the motherboard I used: a Supermicro X9SCL-F (the “F” part apparently indicates IPMI support).
IPMI allows a number things for which you’d normally have to have extra hardware for. By simply using your browser (or the Supermicro IPMIView software) you can view sensor readings (temperatures, fan speeds etc), reboot the server if the OS has crashed and it even does console redirection which means you don’t need a separate KVM-over-IP device to access the console or change BIOS settings remotely.
Furthermore this particular Supermicro board doesn’t need a dedicated network port for IPMI, so you can share IPMI with one of the the LAN ports. To enable IPMI you only need to specify an IP in the BIOS and the NIC will happily route traffic to the right device (server itself or IPMI). It seemed to work great at home.
But at the datacenter I noticed one particular problem: there was no way to specify the default gateway for the IPMI device, except from the OS itself (which it would then reset again upon reboot). This would make the IPMI feature impossible to use (except maybe from adjacent servers on the the same netmask).
The solution turned out to be a BIOS upgrade (not an IPMI firmware upgrade) for the motherboard. My board had v1.0b and a quick Google search showed the latest version (v1.0c) fixed the gateway issue.
So now all I needed to do was upgrade the BIOS, except that the only method available for that was using DOS. Needless to say it took me some trouble finding a way to get DOS to boot from a USB flash drive (fortunately this method worked) and then to upgrade the BIOS with the server still in the rack.
Anyway, the lesson learned: if you’re building a server with a similar motherboard don’t forget to update the BIOS before you go to the datacenter.
The only problem that now remains is that when I do a reboot the IPMI connection “goes away” for 30-60 seconds, making it impossible to get in to the BIOS (once IPMI works again the server is already fully booted). This appears to be a known problem for Cisco devices (which is what my server is hooked up to). I’m not sure yet if I’ll ask the datacenter to enable “portfast” on the port or wait until I get a private (half) rack in the future so that I also own and operate the switch myself.