Installing EBS 2008 on HP c3000 Blade System

Recently I was lucky enough to get my hands on an HP c3000 Blade Enclosure with 2 x BL460c and 2 x BL260c Blades and the job to install EBS 2008. The BL460’s where configured with 1 x Quad Xeon 2.66Mhz, 8GB RAM and SAS Drives. BL260’s where configured with 1 x Quad Xeon 2.66Mhz, 4GB RAM and SATA drives.

The c3000 Blade Enclosure comes in two versions, a wheel mounted free standing model or a 6U rack mounted version. Both versions can hold 8 blades which can be mixed and match to suit your needs.

The first thing that you notice is these things are very solid, the empty enclosure is over 54kgs. A small popout LCD console allows you to configure various console features. The enclosure has upto 6 cooling fans and 6 power supplies and an integrated DVD drive.

EBS 2008 Installation process

This installation was a fresh install. Other options allow migration from older server environments.

The first step is to run the preparation tools either on the network you are migrating or on a Vista PC. This generates and XML file used later in the installation.

Blades a slotted into the enclosure turned on and iLO configured (must be done before you can access in the integrated DVD). Network cables were connected to a switch (must be a gigabit switch if you have a Gigabit pass-thru module).

I ended up using an external DVD drive for the installation as the integrated DVD is extremely slow due to the bus that connects it to the enclosure. I strongly recommend you don’t use the integrated DVD for the install. It was 5 times slower than my external Sony USB DVD drive that was connected via the USB connect on the front of the blades.

HP provide a “Smart Start” CD with the Blades however this can’t be used to install EBS 2008 (I tested Smart Start 8.15). Insert the first EBS DVD, boot up and follow the onscreen prompts. This process goes for quiet some time, prompting you to boot up the Security Server from the next disk and finally the Messaging Server. The only real issue during this phase was the RAID driver for the BL260c, the HP support page for this server didn’t include the right driver. After a bit of hunting around I found that the 64bit driver for the HP ML150G5 SATA-RAID was the right one!

Once the base installation is complete,  an installation guide on the Management Server steps you through the procedure for configuring various aspects of the network environment. Everything from setting up external DNS records, email domains, agents for SCE 2007 etc.

Following the installation I also installed HP’s PSP 8.15 from the Smart Start CD kit. SNMP had to be installed on the servers to ensure PSP 8.15 installed fully.

At this point all that was left to do was create user accounts, migrate data, create some group policies, install printers, configure firewall, deploy SCE 2007 agents and test everything.

End result

The installation process was mostly painless and once you learn the basics of working with blades is enjoyable too. EBS 2008 installed with ease once the RAID driver issue was resolved on the BL260’s.

I have plenty of experience installing the various packages that make up EBS 2008 in the “standard” server versions that have been around for some time. EBS 2008 is pretty good at getting the basic install in and configured correctly and the process is definitely faster than manually installing all the included products (and you know it is going to be right).

The c3000 Blade system performance very well and has plenty of room for growth. Storage modules, iSCSI SAN or an external iSCSI or Fibre attached MSA 2000 SAN provide plenty of storage. That combined with lower power consumption (30% less than rack mount servers), reduced cabling and compact design make the c3000 a must consider item for the medium size businesses.