Data Center Management: Windows users can use IPMI tools too!

Before we get started on enabling the Windows community, let’s review what we’re trying to manage in the datacenter using the specification.  Namely, we’re talking about out-of-band (OOB) access to your server systems in the datacenter.  Whether it’s a single node, or multi-node chassis – more than likely you have a Baseboard Management Controllers (BMC) onboard to help with remote management.

Modern BMCs are based on IPMI 2.0 standards and are deployed by many OEMs and ODMs across the server landscape.  Many customers choose to have the BMC on a dedicated manageability port to keep the data stream separate from the management stream.  Each vendor differentiates their BMC platforms to create a unique service, but they all still are based on the common IPMI 2.0 specification:

    • DELL Integrated Dell Remote Access Controller (iDRAC)
    • Supermicro Intelligent Management (BMC)
    • IBM Integrated Management Module II (IMM2)
    • HP Integrated Lights-Out (iLO)
    • And many more…

In-band computing support is pretty common, if you’ve used Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) or Secure Shell (ssh) you can get a remote desktop or console to manage the system ‘in-band’.  To achieve out-of-band management you can use the BMC as part of your strategy.  There are lots of ‘best known methods’ and design guidelines to ensure you’re maximizing your OOB model.  Each BMC models includes the capability to reach out to the system in an ‘out-of band’ scenario where you don’t impact your workloads and compute infrastructure while you manage your system in a ‘behind the scene’ model.

 

I work with a lot of customers who have bifurcated OS models running a mix of Microsoft Windows and Linux based clients as well as Windows and Linux servers.  The Linux community is rather familiar with ipmitool which is a utility for managing and configuring devices based on the Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI) – both version 1.5 and 2.0 specs.  Since IPMI is an open standard, it only makes sense that the Linux community has had the lion’s share of tool development.  The Windows guys are not as deeply entrenched into the toolsets – but I’ll show more tools and ways to enable you to use IPMI software from your Windows platform!

There are IPMI based tools that have been developed over the years, and Sourceforge has a nice list of these tools and a comparison of
each project
.  Many of these Linux based tools can be extended to Windows by using Cygwin to port the Linux code to your Windows platform.  Here’s an example of how one developer used this method. Kudos on enabling!

  • ipmitool –most Linux users are familiar with when using IPMI controls
  • ipmiutil – This tool has also been developed for Windows, and has a really nice built-in BMC discovery feature.
  • freeipmi – an IPMI based software tool that is used across many HPC and cluster based environments
  • OpenIPMI – an IPMI based tool which also includes IPMI drivers for your Linux platform

Now you have access to the most common IPMI command-line tools and can extend them to your Windows based ipmi ‘toolset’ and can reach
out remotely to your system.  However, if you’re trying to communicate with the BMC on your local windows system, you’ll run into an error shown below, which is a simple raw command to get the BMC version. ipmi-error.jpg

If you want to communicate with the BMC using Windows as an ‘in-band’ method, you simply load the Microsoft based IPMI driver.  If the driver is already installed you can bypass this step and check the command string in the next step.

You can install this in your device manager by the following steps:

Install Legacy Hardware->System Devices->Microsoft->Microsoft Generic IPMI Compliant Device

driver-ipmi-load.jpg

You will need to use the –I ms (ms = Microsoft) interface when you use the ipmitool command line to properly call the BMC.  Once you send the command using the correct driver and interface, you get a response from the BMC as an in-band call from the operating system as shown below. ipmi-correct.jpg


Hopefully by porting these tools to Windows, you can improve your daily communication with the servers you support.


Send along other ideas on how you manage your systems out-of-band and optimize the assets in your managed datacenter!

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Todd Christ

About Todd Christ

Todd Christ is an Enterprise Solutions Architect at Intel Corporation. He is a dynamic, highly accomplished computer science professional with a deep history of leveraging novel technologies to develop solutions to chronic business challenges. Todd worked in several roles in Information Technology prior to his career shift to the Intel Datacenter Group where he currently promotes Software Defined Infrastructure models, solutions and technologies. Todd is a strong proponent of Hybrid Cloud strategies for Enterprise and Government markets. He has broad knowledge and success in engineering and development environments; he excels at qualifying, integrating, and testing diverse systems. Todd is a skilled trainer and project leader; able to direct multiple tasks effectively and readily master innovative software and tools.