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SYSTEMS MANAGEMENT

Remotely Managing UNIX and Linux Servers Using the

Dell RAC Serial/Telnet Console
Introduced in the 3.0 release of Dell™ remote access controller (RAC) firmware, the RAC serial/telnet console provides administrators with a standard serial console for remotely managing Dell PowerEdge™ servers running UNIX or Linux operating systems. The console offers system power management capabilities, pre–operating system redirection capabilities, and support for kernel-mode messaging.
BY AURELIAN DUMITRU

D

ell™ remote access controllers (RACs) provide remote systems management capabilities on supported Dell

This article explains how the RAC serial/telnet console is implemented, provides details on how to configure the console, and includes an example of how to set up the IT environment for optimal console performance.

PowerEdge™ servers. Although four types of RACs are available—Dell Remote Access Card III (DRAC III), DRAC III/XT, Embedded Remote Access (ERA), and Embedded Remote Access Option (ERA/O)—they share many of the same features and are supported by a common software stack, which is part of Dell OpenManage™ Server Administrator. One new feature introduced in the 3.0 release of RAC firmware is the RAC serial/telnet console, which provides administrators with a standard serial console for remote management of servers running UNIX® or Linux® operating systems. Dell has enhanced its standard serial console with new functionality, none of which requires custom software to be installed or running on the host:

Understanding the functionality of the RAC serial/telnet console
The RAC serial/telnet console provides a means by which administrators can access the ttyS1 serial console and video console of a UNIX or Linux host through either a serial connection (using a VT-100 or ANSI® client) or a LANbased Telnet connection. The RAC serial/telnet console provides a rich set of commands for performing system power management tasks, configuring the RAC, and viewing RAC and system logs. The serial/telnet console uses the same set of commands as the Racadm command-line utility that originally was part of the RAC software stack. Therefore, administrators need not learn a new set of commands to use the RAC console. The RAC acts as a gate between its PowerEdge host system and the remote administrator, providing optimal console-redirection performance combined with userlevel security. Depending on the hardware interfaces and support offered by its host, the RAC can provide
March 2004

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POWER SOLUTIONS

System power management to enable power up, power down, power cycle, or reset Redirection of pre–operating system firmware such as BIOS screens Support for kernel-mode messaging using SysRq magic keys

The RAC serial 1 interface is used for hostto-RAC serial communication. However.200 bps Set the host-to-RAC baud rate to 57. the console will present the user with a login prompt. 3. administrators can log in to the RAC console even on a dead server. Upgrade the RAC firmware to version 3. Note that baud_rate_1 and baud_rate_2 are not necessarily set to the same value. # # Object Group "cfgRacTuning" Host serial interface RAC serial 1 (baud_rate_1) RAC video interface Host video interface # [cfgRacTuning] cfgRacTuneHostCom2BaudRate=57600 RAC firmware RAC network interface card (NIC) The preceding sample configuration file will: COM2 RS-232 circuitry and DB-9 connector RAC serial 2 (baud_rate_2) RAC LAN Null modem cable • • • • • Enable the RAC serial console Enable the RAC telnet console Set the RAC-to-client baud rate to 115. All administrators should be able to access the serial and video consoles of the host. RAC relies on hardware flow control to avoid dropped characters during serial communication. the administrator connects to the serial console using the connect com2 command. or to the video console of the host using To maintain security. Dell recommends setting baud_rate_1 to 57. Regardless of whether a serial or Telnet connection is established with the RAC.600 bps and baud_rate_2 to 115. as well as enabling hardware flow control for the host. the RAC hardware features two serial interfaces (RAC serial 1 and RAC serial 2) and one video interface (RAC video interface). The login is authenticated against the RAC user database.com/powersolutions POWER SOLUTIONS 77 . For optimal performance. or both. Configure and enable the RAC serial/telnet console by saving the following sample RAC configuration in a text file (for instance. Any mismatch between these values will make the RAC serial/telnet console unusable. provided that the server has power. flow control enables the host to respond to Request To Send/Clear To Send (RTS/CTS) signals. not host-based.. the root user’s password and location within the RAC user database can be changed. the RAC serial 2 interface is used for RAC-to-client communication. which resides on the RAC. For example.600 bps Set the console quit key sequence—which allows the administrator to exit the host ttyS1 serial console or video console redirection and go back to the RAC serial/telnet console—to “. Once authenticated.0. to change a baud rate. Baud_rate_2 must be in sync with the baud rate of the VT-100 or ANSI client. provided that the RAC is properly configured. Baud_rate_1 in the RAC configuration must be in sync with the Linux ttyS1 baud rate. rac./ cfgSerialTelnetEnable=1 the connect video command./” (comma dot slash) VT-100 client Telnet client In the sample configuration file. a Telnet connection. the names in square brackets are the groups into which the various configuration parameters Figure 1. In addition. Because the authentication is RAC-based. only the root user can power up the system or configure the RAC—for instance.. As shown in Figure 1.dell.200 bps. or check to make sure that the current system BIOS supports the RAC serial/telnet console.cfg) and then applying the configuration using the Racadm interface: # # Object Group "cfgSerial" # [cfgSerial] cfgSerialBaudRate=115200 cfgSerialConsoleEnable=1 cfgSerialConsoleQuitKey=. 2. RAC serial/telnet console configuration on PowerEdge 2650 server www. administrators must properly set up two baud rates (baud_rate_1 and baud_rate_2) to gain remote access to the serial console on the host. Thus.SYSTEMS MANAGEMENT access to the host console through a serial connection to the RAC. all users are not granted all privileges. Configuring the RAC serial/telnet console To set up the RAC serial/telnet console. the Dell PowerEdge 2650 server offers connectivity using either a VT-100 or ANSI serial client or a LANbased telnet client. the following RAC configuration parameters need to be modified in the following sequence: 1. Upgrade the host system BIOS to the latest version available.

enter the BIOS configuration page.cfg).conf or /etc/lilo. 9.0) kernel /boot/vmlinuz-2. Reboot the RAC host.” On the PowerEdge 2650. Reset the RAC using the following command to make the changes effective: racadm remote connect options racreset 6. and /etc/securetty.57600 initrd /boot/initrd-2.conf to enable ttyS1 serial console redirection are organized. rac.SYSTEMS MANAGEMENT serial --unit=1 --speed=57600 terminal --timeout=10 console serial title Red Hat Linux Advanced Server (2. Refer to the Dell Remote Access Controller Racadm User’s Guide for additional information on RAC configuration parameters. the administrator must choose RAC instead of Serial Port 2.img title Red Hat Linux Advanced Server-up (2.9-e.3smp) root (hd0. After both the RAC and the BIOS are in sync. administrators need not use this variable because Racadm can communicate directly with the RAC that exists in that system.4. for example when configuring a remote RAC from a management station over a LAN. Because the BIOS and the RAC synchronize when the system boots.im Figure 2.600 bps in the /etc/grub. 3. The system reboot 4. Note: In Figure 2.9-e. the RAC may not redirect BIOS screens if the BIOS and the RAC do not sync up. On the PowerEdge 1750. 8.3. the Linux host baud rate is set to 57.” # Run gettys in standard runlevels co:2345:respawn:/sbin/agetty –h -L 57600 ttyS1 vt100 1:2345:respawn:/sbin/mingetty tty1 2:2345:respawn:/sbin/mingetty tty2 3:2345:respawn:/sbin/mingetty tty3 4:2345:respawn:/sbin/mingetty tty4 5:2345:respawn:/sbin/mingetty tty5 6:2345:respawn:/sbin/mingetty tty6 7. Use the following racadm command to apply these changes: racadm remote connect options config –f config filename is important because it allows the RAC and the BIOS to synchronize their communication parameters. From the RAC’s host console.4. The three settings should be configured as follows for the PowerEdge 2650 server: • • • 78 Console Redirection: Serial Port 2 Remote Terminal Type: VT-100 Redirection After Boot: Enabled Figure 3. Modifications to /etc/grub. However.cfg) in the 5.4.3 ro root=/dev/sda1 s initrd /boot/initrd-2.4. at least one system boot needs to occur after the administrator enables and configures the RAC serial/telnet console.9-e.conf (depending on the bootloader used).9-e. Required modifications to the three files are shaded in Figures 2. verify that Serial Port 1 is set to “Off.0) kernel /boot/vmlinuz-2.3) root (hd0. which is in sync with the host-to-RAC baud rate set in the sample RAC configuration text file (rac. For the PowerEdge 1750 server. No additional reboots are required thereafter. at least three Linux files must be changed to enable ttyS1 serial console redirection: /etc/grub.3smp ro root=/dev/sda1 hda=ide-scsi console=tty0 console=ttyS1.3smp.4. The remote connect options variable is needed only for executing Racadm remotely. Depending on the specific configuration of a system.conf or /etc/lilo. Save the changes and reboot the system.9-e. /etc/inittab. and select “Integrated Devices. none of these changes is required if only access to the host video console is needed. verify that Serial Port 2 is set to COM2.9-e. Modifications to /etc/inittab to enable ttyS1 serial console redirection POWER SOLUTIONS March 2004 .4. and 4. Select “Console Redirection” from the main BIOS configuration page. where remote connect options is -r rac_ip_addr -u root –p password and config filename is the name of the configuration file (for instance.conf file.

the www. To gain access to ttyS1. Unfortunately.” “m. Nevertheless. or terminal servers.E. visit Dell Power Solutions online at http://www.com/docs/software/smdrac3/RAC/en/index. administrators must first log in to the RAC prompt to view RAC system logs. the administrator probably requires output from the “b. the administrator may choose to use the RAC to restart the server. restart agetty or reboot the RAC host to complete the configuration process. Aurelian has 12 years of experience in hardware.us. an administrator may want to collect as much information as possible to assist with a problem diagnosis and to store this information in a file. previous example.dell.dell. then the best approach may be to examine the RAC system logs. . and system design and integration. tty8 tty9 tty10 tty11 ttyS1 telnet client and then presses one of the SysRq magic keys.” the RAC relies on hardware flow control for reliable serial communication with its host. the administrator normally would press the Alt + SysRq + magic_key sequence to get the expected SysRq output. administrators must use the connect com2 command in the RAC console. Optimizing the IT environment for serial/telnet console performance Depending on the IT environment and the hardware capabilities of the RAC host. As explained in “Understanding the functionality of the RAC serial/telnet console. The same host-to-RAC baud rate of 57. Regardless of whether a serial or Telnet connection is used.600 bps is used when invoking the agetty command (see Figure 3).html POWER SOLUTIONS 79 . he held the lead engineer position for the Remote Management Delivery team. For connection schematics for two adapters that can be used to connect a RAC to a Cisco® 2511 serial concentrator. although the methodology is slightly different for a remote connection than for a local console. Before joining the Custom Solutions Engineering team. software. FOR MORE INFORMATION Dell Remote Access Controller Racadm User’s Guide: http://docs. If using the remote connection. the –h flag. If the system appears to have crashed. not all serial concentrators are alike: they vary with respect to configuration parameters.htm Remote serial console how-to: http://www. configuration interface. Many organizations use serial concentrators. and—if logged in as root—configure the RAC or reboot the system. to consolidate multiple serial connections. the RAC serial/telnet console is enhanced with features that allow for server recovery. administrators may choose to use either a serial connection or a Telnet connection to the RAC. The RAC serial/telnet console is software-independent and helps administrators interact smoothly with the RAC host.com/powersolutions Aurelian Dumitru (aurelian_dumitru@dell. then redirect either ttyS1 serial consoles or video consoles.” “p.org/docs/Linux-HOWTO/Remote-Serial-Console-HOWTO. system configuration management. degree from the Technical University of Iasi.” and “t” SysRq magic keys. The RAC serial/telnet console supports SysRq functionality. it will not be present if the administrator connects to the remote console and then redirects the host’s video console. Some organizations also use SysRq magic keys to capture kernel-level status information as part of the IT support process.dell. In either case.faqs. Modifications to /etc/securetty to enable ttyS1 serial console redirection tered can be divided into two areas: an unresponsive system or a system that has crashed.S. after which the administrator can examine the boot screens for further clues. He has an M.com/magazines_extras. . Romania. Depending on the state of the system.com) is a senior software engineer with the Custom Solutions Engineering team at Dell. where he works to deploy and customize systems management for medium to large enterprises. and wiring. Once that information is gathered. Besides supporting industry-wide systems management practices. 10. forces agetty to use hardware flow control for the communication. After modifying the files.SYSTEMS MANAGEMENT administrator enters the send break command on the serial or .E. when present on the same line. Enabling server recovery and configuration management through RAC The RAC serial/telnet console can be a valuable remote management tool for IT administrators. For example. Generally the problems encoun- Figure 4. and RAC configuration management. If the system appears to be hung. the administrator may need to connect to the RAC and then access the host ttyS1 serial console or video console. The RAC is now ready to redirect its host serial console. This SysRq functionality will work only when redirecting ttyS1. the RAC can be used remotely to restart the server. At the local console. Most serial concentrators use an RJ-45–to–DB-9 adapter.