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November 7, 2009
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November 10, 2009
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Remote KVM Cards & Modular Servers

I had to install a PCI remote KVM card into a client’s server this afternoon. Oh how difficult that was!!!

So, servers these days, are 99% of the time modular in every single way… The problem I’m getting to here, is that, you no longer have separate cables for your power, reset, HDD, etc etc on the motherboard… Hey, that’s great 99% of the time, right?

Yeah… But what about that other 1%?

So I installed said KVM card, into a PCI slot, hurrah, no issues. KVM card in question has a pin header which you plug your old power switch and reset button onto, and then use the supplied “feature cable” to connect the KVM card to your motherboard’s pin header. In theory, that’s all just supposed to go like peaches and cream.

Here’s your 1%! The ribbon cable for the front panel’s pin header connection, firstly, was not long enough… But secondly, and more annoyingly, ALL of the pins are joined together in one “mega connector” encompassing all 16 odd pins in one connector to connect to the pins on the motherboard. UGH!

So we did a bit of a dodgey. The server in question now has no power button or reset switch, bar using the remote KVM software of course… In it’s replacement, we implemented the following:

  1. Power state when mains power restored was set to ON. Essentially, your new power switch is the mains power switch. The server, provided it doesn’t lose its BIOS settings, will turn on automatically when you turn the mains power on…
  2. We toyed with the idea of using the chassis intrusion switch as the new power switch, this failed, obviously, when you close the chassis, the switch is triggered, and 4 seconds later, it turns off. So chassis intrusion, I guess, could have just been reconnected as normal. No, we dodgied this up too. An old school (aka pre-SATA) IDE hard drive jumper was used to permanently short the chassis intrusion pins. Dodgy, yes, but the BIOS didn’t have any other option to turn it off… You do what ya gotta do, right?

Of note here, is the fact that ASUS servers, and chassis intrusion, REALLY SUCKS. We spent a good chunk of our time trying to actually get into a BIOS screen, but instead were told that the chassis had been intruded. It took multiple power draining exercises, battery removals, and generally changing everything back to how we had it to get anything to work. Suffice to say, if I never have to touch an ASUS server with chassis intrusion again, I would be the luckiest man in the world…

Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen, considering their higher spec servers are just awesome value…

Back to my rant…

If you end up having this same problem, I suggest this… Buy a DELL/IBM/HP server with remote management capability. I liked the features of this little card we used, but the stuff around has totally put me off it, especially for whitebox servers. In future, spend the money and do it properly…

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