Give A Man A Fish...

January 7, 2009

We have a saying around the NOC here at Softlayer. You can give a man a fish to eat today, but if you don’t tell him how you caught it, he will go hungry tomorrow. Well, maybe that’s not how it goes… let me explain.

Every day, I tout the greatest things about my job to my ‘techie’ buddies. However, some of them don’t even know about the technologies I mention.

The IPMI/KVM console is probably the greatest tool I have for investigating and fixing issues other than my brain/eyes/hands. Using IPMI, I am able to interact with the KVM (Keyboard, Video, Mouse) input/output of a server. I can reboot, check bios settings, reconfigure a raid, or even watch a ‘task manager’ or ‘top’ output in real time.

The best part about IPMI is that it is integrated into the majority of our SLystems and allows the technician/customer to investigate connectivity issues (and more) via a network connection that is independent of the public network interface. Many times, I find that even our most savvy customers have never had the opportunity to ‘test drive’ IPMI/KVM.

Here is a great example:

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CSA: Softlayer Technologies. How may I help you?

USR: My server is down and I have created a ticket #xxxxx. Can you help?

CSA: Of course. I can see that the server is not pinging.

USR: We adjusted the firewall rules and now we cannot connect to the server. I believe we have locked ourselves out!

CSA: I am connecting via the IPMI/KVM to verify that the interfaces are up. May I disable the firewall temporarily?

USR: No! We cannot have the firewall down for any period of time. What is IPMI/KVM?

CSA: It is a handy remote interface to use the server as if you were standing in front of it with keyboard, video and mouse. Have you used this feature before?

USR: No. I have seen the IPMI section in the portal before, but didn’t know what it was for.

CSA: Here - let me help you use the tutorials listed in the portal. Once you are connected, you can edit the firewall rules without losing connection.

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This is why IPMI is valuable and should be a part of any administrator’s toolset. As in the example above, the information in the portal was enough to get the user acclimated and connected. He resolved the issue without my direct interaction and updated the ticket with appreciation.

Have you used your IPMI today?

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