SAN Boot Windows Servers on Cisco UCS Blades

We purchased a couple more Cisco B200 M4 blades specifically to run Microsoft SQL locally. That might sound a little old school, but we’re finding out that virtualizing all of our SQL servers is not practical. Therefore, I am, for the first time, attempting to build Windows Servers that boot from SAN. I eventually got it all worked out, which means another riveting blog entry for my seven readers. In fact, when I told one of them that a new post was in the works, the reply was “A shorter one then?” Sigh.

Pre-Game Prep:

  1. Create the LUNs on the SAN that will be used as the boot/system drives.
  2. Download the drivers ISO for the Cisco blade model that is being used. This will be needed to connect the Windows OS to the boot LUN.
    From Cisco’s website go to Support–>All Downloads–> Choose Cisco Unified Computing on the left side of the table–> Choose the blade model on the right side of the table. The final screen will have a link for UCS Drivers.
  3. Take a look at Matt Oswalt’s blog on this subject. It’s a good overview.

After the blades were ack’d by the chassis and online it was time to build UCS service profiles for bare metal Windows servers rather than VMware ESXi hosts. There is one important difference: The vNIC Failover Choice. Thanks to Brad Hedlund’s blog that verifies the UCS failover procedure. Set up the vNICs with UCS failover as the MAC addresses will be replicated to each Fabric Interconnect in case of failure.
image6

Once the service profiles are associated, the MAC addresses for the blade’s vHBA cards will appear. Set up the zoning on the FC switches and map the blades to the boot LUNs. I won’t be covering these steps as our infrastructure is probably different than yours. You can verify if the blade has FC connections during its boot process as it will error out if there is a connection problem.

Now the fun part as we combine a Cisco blade and Microsoft Windows 2008 R2. Yay.

  1. In the Cisco UCSM open the KVM to the blade that Windows will be installed on.
  2. Click Virtual Media and Activate Virtual Devices. Accept the session if needed and map the Windows Server ISO to the CD drive.
  3. The blade may need to be reset, but do whatever it takes to choose the virtual CD player as the boot device (F6 on the Cisco blade after reset)
  4. Once the blade boots from CD Windows will load its files and finally stop when it sees no disk to install to.
    image3
  5. Now is when we need the UCS drivers. Windows can’t see the disk because it doesn’t have the Cisco VIC driver. In the blade’s KVM session, unmap the Windows installation disk and mount Cisco drivers ISO. Click the Load Driver option in the window and browse the ISO file to: Windows\Storage\Cisco\VIC\<windows OS version>\x64 folder. Choose the Cisco VIC .inf file and load it.
  6. The LUN now appears as a Windows Disk. Choose the disk and click New to create a Windows partition. Microsoft will warn you that it may need to create more than one. Yeah, create 50, I really don’t care, just give me one that will install the OS.
  7. Once the partitions are made, you’ll get another warning about how Windows can’t be installed on any of those. Just replace the Cisco drivers ISO with the Windows installation in the Virtual Media in the KVM session. That will clear the warning and installation will continue.

When Windows is installed and logged into the first time you’ll see a ton of unknown devices, including the Ethernet Controller.
image0

Like any other bare metal server, all the drivers are missing. So, back to the Cisco drivers ISO. Reload it back into the Virtual Media of the KVM session.

Load the ethernet controller drivers first as the chipset install may need to pull down Microsoft .NET 4.5 to install its software. Once you load the chipset drivers, the Windows server is set to roll.

See, it WAS a shorter post than the last one.

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