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We have servers in two different locations in our town. We connect to them through ssh to do almost everything that we need. But whenever we need to re install a server, we need to drive to the hosting location to do it.

This works well for now, but we are planning on getting a third location in a different city. Driving there won't be an option anymore, so we are looking for ways to remotely manage the servers. We need something that would allow us to reinstall the servers, make hard reboot if the server ever crashes and we can't ssh to it and see the actual booting remotely so we can see what's happening if a server is not coming back up.

So what are you guys using? Can you give me pros and cons about different tools.

By the way, we are currently using Dell servers. But the we are thinking of going with blades for the new location and we don't mind changing to a new vendor.

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Not really an answer but, virtualization basically (but not completely) removes the need for this and allow you to set up and install servers and even reroute virtual networks and switches - from your bed without ever having to disconnect that ssh tunnel to the host or however you managed a particular solution ^^ –  Oskar Duveborn May 16 '09 at 13:14
    
Blade chassis tend to have lights-out-management built-in - you just ssh or http surf to the chassis and you can power up/down blades, reroute communications, see the console/boot screen and mount iso and floppy images remotely. –  Oskar Duveborn May 16 '09 at 13:15

5 Answers 5

up vote 8 down vote accepted

You mention you use Dell servers. Dell offers an option in some servers to add a module to the system that you can basically remotely connect too and see the console.

Anyway if the you already have equipment that doesn't support this you should look at getting an IP-based KVM, and manageable power strip. This way you'll be able to remotely access the console and power cycle your equipment.

I suspect I would also be tempted to leave a partition on the disk with a livecd or perhaps you could leave a USB device plugged into each server liveos. The idea being that if you can't do anything remotely you'll be able to connect to the system remotely using whatever OBM method you choose. Once you get connected you'll be able to change the boot order and get to your rescue environment. Another option might be to setup a PXE boot environment so you can netboot your diagnostic tools.

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All Dell servers sold these days came with IPMI. This will allow you to use sol (serial over LAN). Linux, Windows, ipxe, syslinux are supporting serial console. So you can do network (PXE) based installs and recoveries.

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Currently we use HP servers with ILO boards to give out of band remote access and cold boots. IBMs have the same functionality with RSA boards. APC powerstrips are excellent for remote manageablilty. Throw in an IP KVM and you've got all the remote access you need.

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If you are using Dells then fit a DRAC card. The DRAC card is a controller with it's own network card (though it can share the server's NIC) and you connect to it just using HTTPS (and Java).

Once you're connected the DRAC gives you a remote console. This is hardware not software, so unlike VNC etc you can see the POST screen and even press F2 and go into the BIOS if you want. Better still, the DRAC will allow you to create a virtual CD using an ISO image and then boot the server off this virtual CD. This isn't usually feasible over a WAN as the link is too slow, but works very well over a LAN.

Alternatively just leave your install CD in the CD drive, and use the DRAC to reboot and install from the CD just as you would in the office.

JR

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I managed a web farm on the east coat. I used HP proliants with ILO2 which allowed me to rebuild a server remotely - For eveyday work i had a vpn connection and RDP'd like i would if the servers where local- Instead of ILO you could use KVM's

It pays to have some "hands on" time at your remote data center for doing hardware upgrades or coordinating with vendors - trouble tickets and routine stuff like offsite storage of backup tapes (iron mountain)

There is a bit of latency involved so you need to take some extra care but as long as you have tools like SIM, SCOM etc its pretty easy to centrally manage your servers remotely

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HP ProLiant and iLO is working for us, with servers in 65 remote sites. You can mount an ISO from your PC as the servers local CD and boot off it, and it's built in to HP's C3000 blade chassis. –  nray May 16 '09 at 6:22
    
iLO supports remote power button control, like "press & hold", "momentary press", cold reboot etc. Once it's set up you really don't need to visit the DC except for hardware faults. Don't lose the default passwords, and consider a separate, secure network just for iLO. You can reconfigure the iLO (eg change the name it tries to register in DNS) from a gui from the running server, which can be handy, or script a change using hponcfg.exe. –  nray May 16 '09 at 6:30
    
Seconded, UndertheFold is doing exactly what we do - we've used this combination for several years into tens of remote data centres and thousands of servers - it works just great. You really do need a local pair of obedient but not tech-savvie hands close to site though. –  Chopper3 May 16 '09 at 8:02

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