What can I do with my old NetApp hardware?

I had a chance today to go through some equipment in my lab pool and try some things I’d been thinking about for a while.

  • Q: If you pull the CF card out of a FAS30xx or FAS31xx system and put it in a PC, does it boot?
  • A: Yes, kind of. It’s a standard FAT16 card, with a standard boot loader on it. However, there is no console, so it just boots up with a flashing cursor, but plug your serial cable into your PC’s serial port and you can interact with it. I tried it in a USB CF reader, and all the kernel boot options refer to IDE devices. With an older system and an IDE to CF header, it might go further, but ONTAP’s boot process has platform checks, so it will probably fail at that point
LOADER> printenv

Variable Name        Value
-------------------- --------------------------------------------------
CPU_NUM_CORES        2
BOOT_CONSOLE         uart0a
BIOS_VERSION         1.3.0
BIOS_DATE            06/22/2010
SYS_MODEL            Vostro 220 Series
SYS_REV              �P�(
SYS_SERIAL_NUM       C384SK1
MOBO_MODEL           0P301D
MOBO_REV             A02
MOBO_SERIAL_NUM      ..CN7360495H03W1.
CPU_SPEED            3000
CPU_TYPE             Intel(R) Core(TM)2 Duo CPU     E8400  @ 3.00GHz
savenv               saveenv
ENV_VERSION          1
BIOS_INTERFACE       86A0
LOADER_VERSION       1.6.1
ARCH                 x86_64
BOARDNAME            Eaglelake
  • Q: Can I use a DS14MK2/DS14MK4/EXN2000 with Linux?
  • A: Yes! Plenty of people have done it. For FC devices, there is a problem of 520 byte sectors, but for SATA(ATA) devices, the use 512 byte ones natively, so no problem. Use a PCI or PCIe FC card like the LPE11002 ($10 on ebay), then install sg3-utils (ubuntu, check your distro for its name there), and use “sg_format -s 512” on any FC drives to convert them from 520 byte sectors to 512 byte sectors, then use the device like any other.

 

  • Q: What about DS4243/DS4246/DS2246 shelves with Linux?
  • A: This one I’m less sure of – but it seems like it should work. I got pretty close. They are just SAS expanders. I have put a NetApp X2065 PCIe SAS HBA into a Linux system, and it is recognised as a PMC8001 SAS HBA. Plugging the shelf in (single attachment) results in the drives being recognised (same 520 byte problem for SAS drives though). Was able to create a LVM PV on a couple of SATA drives, put it into a VG, and then create an LV, but when I tried formatting the LV, it failed when it got the stage of writing superblocks. It’s probably fixable, but I don’t have the time or need to do so. It is also worth mentioning that the PMC8001 is made for rack mount systems with high airflow – inside a standard PC it gets VERY VERY hot, very quickly.
  • Update: 2017-08 – I had someone email me about this, and Youtube mysteriously suggested this video on this very topic. After some back and forth, it looks like the trick to getting it working is to pull out the second IOM from the back of the system and single attach it. This may only be needed for SATA drives with the interposer board that makes them talk SAS. I know some people who have got the DS2246 with SAS drives working without having to do this.

 

  • Q: What happens if I put a FlashCache (PAM II 512GB) card into a PC?
  • A: Nothing. Linux detects the PCI vendor ID as NetApp, but then doesn’t assign a class, and just says product ID of 774c.

 

  • Q: What if I install Linux on a CF card, then put it into a FAS3170?
  • A: Stay tuned 😉 Standard ubuntu-core won’t fit onto the 1GB supplied CF card. I’m in the process of acquiring a larger one, and I’ll try.

Out-of-band Management ports on NetApp – e0M vs SP vs Serial

 

 

One of the things I’ve seen new (and sometimes existing..) customers to NetApp be most confused about, are the various ways of connecting to the system for management.

Over the years, there have been a couple of different out of band management systems (RLM and BMC are the older systems, SP on the newer ones). This post focuses on systems with Service Processor, or SP, as used in the FAS2200, FAS2500, FAS3100, FAS3200, FAS6100, FAS6200 and FAS8000 families. Lets start by going through the physical ports on the back of the controller. Where the ports are varies slightly by model, but the icons are consistent.

netapp-management-ports

A common question is “ok, so the wrench port is e0M, why doesn’t it just say that?”. The short answer is that it isn’t – although you could be forgiven for making that guess. Even NetApp’s label set for Clustered ONTAP includes an e0M cable label, despite their systems not having a specific port labelled e0M. Let’s look at how the ports connect up, from the point of view of an administrator:

netapp-management-block

 

From this simplified block diagram, you can see how they all relate. The port on the outside of the box actually connects to a switch inside the box, and that has both ONTAP’s e0M and the Service Processor’s IP interface connected to it. It’s almost literally running Ethernet on the motherboard traces (it’s actually something called RMII, not normal 802.3, but close enough). The internal switch is unmanaged, which is why you can’t do VLANs over that port. To clarify some more – the service processor is an independent CPU, with its own RAM, flash and OS running on it. It talks to ONTAP very closely, obviously, and to sensors throughout the system, but it’s separate to the main kernel running on the x86 CPU that runs ONTAP.

On 7-mode systems, e0M is just another interface in ONTAP, but in Clustered ONTAP, it can only be used for management LIFs, not data LIFs (or Cluster LIFs). On the FAS2500 and FAS8000, the wrench port, and therefore e0M, are finally 1G, but on previous systems, it’s only 100M. On 7-mode systems, you have to be careful – you don’t want it on the same subnet as any of your data service IPs, or traffic might go out through it, instead of a 1G or 10G port. To stop this, set “options interface.blocked.mgmt_data_traffic on” for all systems (running ONTAP 8.0.2 or higher), but ideally put it on a different subnet. It’s best practice to have, at the very least, a different OOB subnet to data services.

From our diagram again, if you need to do something like monitor boot/shutdown/reboot during an ONTAP upgrade, you can either connect to the Serial Console or the SP IP – the output is the same. I’ve done lots of remote upgrades this way. Once the system is up, and the SP is configured, there’s almost never a need to use the Serial Console again. The SPs don’t talk to each other, so if one node is online and the other is offline, you can’t use the online node to connect to the offline one.

If you’re the type who like managing your 7-mode NetApp from the command line, you would normally SSH into the e0M IP address, while for Clustered ONTAP, you would normally SSH to the Cluster Management IP. You could go from the SP to the system console, but that will be limited to 9600bps output through the serial connection, and if you’re looking at a lot of text, or pasting a lot of text, that can be limiting. For using GUI applications like OnCommand System Manager, you connect to the e0M IP on 7-mode, and the Cluster Management IP on Clustered ONTAP Systems.

A final question I’ve heard is “what is that USB port for?”. Officially, for regular users, it’s unsupported. Unofficially, you can use it to charge your iPhone while its running in hotspot mode, or to power your Airconsole. It does operate as a USB Host actually, and under certain high security situations, NetApp staff are permitted to use it to load firmware onto the system from the system console.

Could this all be made simpler? Well, there are good purposes for all of the different IPs and interfaces you might use, so I’m not 100% convinced it could be. Everything new is complex initially, but once you get a handle on it, it all makes sense. Hope this has helped you!

Sometimes you can’t get to here from there.

Sometimes things look impossibe. Like screwing in a screw with a handle directly above it (seriously, if I ever met the person who designed this..)

If I ever meet the person responsible for this, I'm punching them in the face

But there’s always a way around things. In this case, I used my fingers to tighten it into place.

Or this screw, which was cross threaded and wouldn’t come out. It didn’t stand up to a pair of channel locks. Sometimes you have to take the hard way.

And sometimes? What you don’t know is a blessing. I don’t have any photos of this unfortunately. But let’s say there was a two storey building, and on the second storey, was a server room, with two 50U racks inside it. You would think – ok, I need to add another one, these two obviously got in here. You enlist some burly gentlemen to help you move the rack up the stairs, and find problem 1 – it doesn’t fit through the back stairs. They take it down the back stairs, and up the front. Problem 2 – it doesn’t fit through the front door standing up, so you lay it down and move it into the corridor in front of the server room. Problem 3 – there are fire sprinklers in the middle of the ceiling, so you can’t stand it up. I scratched my head for a while, and then started removing bits of drop ceiling, until I found a section big enough to get it standing up, without any sprinkler pipes under it. I stood it up, and then went to move it into the server room. Same issue – but found another part of the drop ceiling without pipes to angle it down again to fit through the lower server room door. And it’s done and in place. I went back to the company’s office and asked them how they got the original racks in there?

The older and wiser sysadmin, who I hadn’t been working on for this project, answer sagely: “we built the room around them”. Sometimes not knowing is the solution to your problem. I doubt I would have even tried if I knew that…