Frankenservers


#1

Whilst on the topic of Frankenservers, I’ve forgotten about an existing one :

This is a Server2003 BDC, and it also serves as a backup repository for me to suck data up to. Not dumping, I want to make it as difficult as possible for anybody to access this server.

There is two fans in front (hidden) - a smaller 80x80 blowing the two IDE’s cool and another 80x80 keeping the SATA’s cool. The Intel RAID card was salvaged from a borked VGS server.

It will be joined by another one, hopefully even noisier. But tidier as it is in a brand new 4U rackmounted chassis.

The reason for it being out of its natural habitat (server room) was that it lost two of the 5 SATA’s at once. After fiddling with the wires all is OK… but it prompted me to order new spares etc for a new Frankenserver, cannot trust old stuff anymore.

Anybody got any Frankenservers running? :smile:


#2

Only my slowly dying home one (which is why I’m building a replacement).

My previous 2 most memorable frankenservers, from more than a decade ago, were:

  • Full tower case with 12 internal bays, all filled and configured in a RAID5 array with about 1 TB of usable space. Airflow in the case was “not ideal” so to fix it we fitted a pair of intake and another pair of exhaust fans, each pushing some 65 CFM of air. Loud, very loud. Acted as our lab’s file server. Survived the “Great AC failure” and the “Second Great AC failure” unscathed.
  • Mini-tower case that also turned out to have airflow issues. That was resolved with (not very) careful use of a hole saw to create the fan holes, the fans then being cable tied to the outside of the case (due to lack of room).

#3

Two from the old job:

The Half Life Server

Back in 98 to 99-ish, we bought a lot of Compaq towers. Like, I (as the Asset Guy/Level 1) would get a skid of PCs in every month, sometimes two! We bought them and had minimal support, so after a year or so would have a lot of spare machines for parts and such.

And so I moved to being Phone Guy. At around that time, we were playing a lot of Half Life in the office. Management was cool with it as long as it was after hours and That One Guy kept his voice down.

So I still had access to The Room, and built a server. Old Compaq tower, missing a few parts, running linux headless. It lived in the asset room as most of the senior server admins weren’t gamers (OK, one was big into Ultima Online, but that’s different) and we couldn’t sneak it in to a space that was overflowing. Still, it lived in the storage room/workshop and allw as good.

Until I went on vacation, and some tech stole the #$^$&*@ hard drive to try and fix another machine. :frowning:

Voicemail and Horse Trading

In time the company needed to replace the OS/2 based voice mail system. We planned to get what eventually became Cisco Unity, but due to it being bought by Cisco and another office not wanting us to have shiny toys no one else did (unified messaging) we ended up going with the shiny new package from Telco manufacturer that offered as a key feature, Unified Messaging. I didn’t say this story would make sense, did I?

(Aside: Said package was a piece of crap I regret to this day. The developers were a mix of either:

  1. Deep Hardware guys, sued to programming bare-metal PBX systems.
  2. Brand new developers using Delphi that might have been competent if they were doing an application, not a complex server with lots of real-time bits and hardware integration.

The Voice mail package was a piece of junk. Hardware was limited to a single-processor, and it ran as a bunch of applications you needed to leave open. Instead of proper Windows Services, the VM processing was an application, as was backup, administration, an app to run the DSPs, etc. We went through versions like crazy for a while as we were early adopters. The unified messaging was never rolled out as it sucked. It used an open-permissions share on the server that seemed very exploitable, and due to not playing ball with Microsoft every PC required a special app that would hit a ‘Yes’ button for them when a dialog about integration popped up…)

Back to the server. Due to Reasons the Company bought the server themselves. We had big corporate deals, wanted to be uniform, etc.

And that’s where it went wrong, leading to a Frankenserver.

Server comes in, vendor starts looking at it. Voice card won’t fit. At that time, for voice stuff you’d end up with what resembled a big multi-line network card that had the voice ports (sometimes RJ-45s that would get split out to individual phone lines) and DSPs ti handle the voice processing. These tended to be somewhat big. This was a full-sized card.

Small but perfectly formed server was a 1u or 2u that could only accommodate half-height cards. This presented a problem.

For Reasons return was not a good option. I don’t remember why: Vendor didn’t want to admit they messed up (they had vetted the new server before it was ordered), project was already way behind, etc.

So we went trading. Ended up getting “the Beast”: a retired Dell server from the Server Team that was impressively large: multiple drives, dual processors, hot-swap PCI, something like 8 gigs of ram. (This was in the early 2000s when 8 gigs of ram was a big deal.) Pretty sweet box, if a bit outdated. It was a beast. I’m thinking something like 5u, maybe 6?

And then it got ugly: Had to get a working OS for this beast (predictably, not easy) and load the voice mail applications. They crash every time we try to start them. Vendor goes to manufacturer. Problem is that their app can’t handle the dual processor goodness. Maybe next year’s release.

So we pull a processor. Which causes the box not to boot. Turns out this big Dell was such that you needed to put a blank card in a processor died or it wouldn’t boot. Vendor ordered that, more delays, etc. etc.

Finally got it up, and it ran for several years. It was always a problem. Restarts were painfully slow (due to mem-testing 8 gigs) and the software would crash if you looked at it wrong. Had to keep a small partition, even though it had a RAID and tons of space.

We finally replaced it with another voice mail package. This one was kind of scary, too: First, it was essentially Cisco Unity form an alternate dimensions. An offshoot with some of the same developers after they’d been bought and spun off by the Big C. Still strangely similar paradigms, which were better than the mess that ran before. This one was an ‘in-skin’ system, which meant they got it running on a Geode processor and a laptop hard drive and wired it onto a PBX line card. Still better than the Beast it replaced.

I left the Beast in place. It might still be there, actually. At first this was to just have it in case Vital Business Data was identified as being left behind in the migration, then it was because pulling the old cabling was kind of scary. Then I just stopped caring.


#4

Go home, VMware, you’re drunk.


Back story for those interested…

This was on my home IBM x3650 after I got a system board error on POST, so I transplanted HDDs and RAM to an ex-work unit. (Side note: do you know how painful it is to take out and re-insert 16 DDR DIMMs, and then find that you’ve screwed up the pairs so have to do it 3 times over?)

I then found out that:

  • apparently there are two variants of the x3650 M1
  • the ex-work variant’s motherboard does not support Xeon 54xx series CPUs required to run ESXi 6.0, whereas mine does

In diagnosing this issue I transplanted the CPUs from my borked motherboard to the ex-work one, and when I found that it didn’t work still I reversed all the changes and powered on my original box. It POSTed and started loading VMware… but to that screen.

While I was reseating the CPUs something made me look underneath the chip, and I saw some debris on a couple of contacts. Air-can over that and the socket, replace chip, reboot… VMware is happy again.

So while not really a Frankenserver per se, I did have to chop and change parts around…


#5

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present you the Frankenserver to end all Frankenservers.

Intel S5500-class motherboard (EOL) but still in good nick.
HP RAID Controller (salvaged from an ancient HP server)
7x 160Gb HDD’s
1x appy (I let him play with this sort of thing, you can learn lots by trying to combine components and see if it works or not). Besides, he need the experience.
And have fun while doing it.


#6

By gum… it works, sorta of.

For some reason the RAID controller card does not show its initialization messages - but the BIOS picks it up.

Downloaded the HP ACU utility, burn it to CD, booted it, and guess what…

So the RAID is configured. 7x 160Gb SATA devices. Appy is happy.

Now FreeNAS doesn’t want to boot (it hangs halfway through the boot process) so we’ll try Linux Mint.

Fun. :smile:


#7

Mint bombs out when installing to the RAID.

Going to try Windows next.


#8

Hyper-V 2016 is free.

Installation was successful. Appy will try it out, will install Vm’s and other stuff.


#9

So is ESXi :slight_smile:


#10

YMMV… I built an ESXi hypervisor for home use for a while. It was a bitch getting the drivers for the drives installed. When 6.5 came out they dumped a bunch of drivers out to keep it small and I had to go and stream the old 5.5. drivers into the hypervisor to get it to work. This is purely home use. For business, I’ve never had a problem getting drivers (except once a co-worker spent a month trying to get some storage installed and wouldn’t listen to me when I told him it was driver related. He was a dick though so I had no desire to help too much).


#11

Ah OK - I’ve not upgraded my home server to 6.5 yet.

As an aside, I feel they should dump the vCenter web client and go back to the thick client. Amirite?


#12

Agreed. The thick client is so much better than this ***** vCenter web client. You can only use M$ EDGE or M$ IE with it.


#13

Am waiting for a server to be avaliable to try Hyper-V 2012 and Hyper-V 2016 with clustering on it.

HyperV 2016 seems to be a powershell job, great if you’re a powershell guru, not so great if you know zippo about powershell…

Also - have the same gripe wrt drivers for ESXi - you have to streamline your NIC into it should your NIC not be supported in newer versions, but only in older versions. Teh_sux.


#14

Ah yes. Said server does not support Hyper-V, it is EOL. Hardly surprising.

Maybe we can make a jukebox or something like that, where it’ll serve random MP3’s on demand (kinda like a private radio station). Or have the appy use it as a tinkertoy testbed.

Hmmmm…


#15

I also agree about the web client. It should work first off. Second, it should not use Java or Flash. If your idea is to make a web client that has no installation, don’t require dependencies. Same goes for the storage plugin you have to install. That is also very version dependent I’ve found. Nothing but a pain. They should also open up the web client for a little more customization. I connect to around 6-9 vCenters on a daily basis not including individual hosts. I’d like to be able to change the name of the tabs on my browser so I know what environment I’m working in.

Server 2016 (Hyper-V or not) is going to be all Powershell basically. 2016 Nano is a command line. 2012 Core is a stripped down GUI. The new ADUC in 2012 runs entirely of off Powershell. It even has a little command window to see what command it ran to give you your results. Handy to make your own scripts. If you want to play with Windows server, learn Powershell. PluralSight has some good instructional videos to watch. MS is also putting in alias’s for Linux commands which is nice.


#16

Deciding factor here for serial console servers was switching to a vendor where the web interface didn’t require Java to start a terminal. It took some work, but we found one.