[Beowulf] Remote console management

pesch at attglobal.net pesch at attglobal.net
Thu Sep 22 21:31:35 PDT 2005

One way so improve on that problem would be a custom made cluster-friendly
BIOS, e.g. one which allows access to such things as BIOS settings etc. at
start-up through ethernet. 

Generally, I find it amazing that with all progress in open source the BIOS
is lagging so far behind ( I know of only one open source BIOS effort!)
when after all it is at the core of the hardware.

Paul Schenker

Original Message:
From: Stuart Midgley sdm900 at gmail.com
Date: Fri, 23 Sep 2005 11:15:07 +0800
To: ballen at gravity.phys.uwm.edu, beowulf at beowulf.org,
parmor at gravity.phys.uwm.edu
Subject: Re: [Beowulf] Remote console management

My experience has not been positive in this area.  Serial consoles  
tend to be very expensive and not provide access to the bios unless  
the mother board has support for serial access to the bios (don't  
expect this in cheap compute nodes).

We use kvm over ethernet to the head nodes of our clusters and don't  
bother with the compute nodes.

We looked at serially attached power boards to remotely power cycle  
nodes, but again they were very expensive (for 150 nodes).

It looks like all serial consoles/remote management cards/kvm's tend  
to be around $500-$1000/node, which tends to be ~50% the cost of the  
compute node (in our clusters).

For a large cluster (100+ nodes) and sub $100/node, the cheapest  
solution is to give a PhD or grad student an extra $10k and get a  
small trolley with keyboard/monitor/mouse.


On 23/09/2005, at 5:35, Bruce Allen wrote:

> We're getting ready to put together our next large Linux compute  
> cluster. This time around, we'd like to be able to interact with  
> the machines remotely.  By this I mean that if a machine is locked  
> up, we'd like to be able to see what's on the console, power cycle  
> it, mess with BIOS settings, and so on, WITHOUT having to drive to  
> work, go into the cluster room, etc.
> One possible solution is to buy nodes that have IPMI cards.  These  
> piggyback on the ethernet LAN and let you interact with the machine  
> even in the absence of an OS.  With the appropriate tools running  
> on a remote machine, you can interact with the nodes even if they  
> have no OS on them or are hung.
> Another solution is to use the DB9 serial ports of the nodes.  You  
> have an 'administrative' box containing lots of high-port-count  
> serial cards (eg, Cyclades 32 or 64 port cards) and then run a  
> serial cable from each node to this box.  By remotely logging into  
> this admin box you can access the serial ports of the machines, and  
> if the BIOS has the right settings/support, this lets you have  
> keyboard/console access.
> Or one can do both IPMI + remote serial port access.
> Could people on this list please report their experiences with  
> these or other approaches?  In particular, does someone have a  
> simple and inexpensive solution (say < $100/node) which lets them  
> remotely:
>  - power cycle a machine
>  - examine/set BIOS values
>  - look at console output even for a dead/locked/unresponsive box
>  - ???
> Thanks!
> Bruce Allen
> U. of Wisconsin - Milwaukee Physics Department
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Dr Stuart Midgley
sdm900 at gmail.com

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