Softpanorama

May the source be with you, but remember the KISS principle ;-)
Home Switchboard Unix Administration Red Hat TCP/IP Networks Neoliberalism Toxic Managers
(slightly skeptical) Educational society promoting "Back to basics" movement against IT overcomplexity and  bastardization of classic Unix

vFlash for DRAC -- lifesaver in OS install via VPN and server recovery after crash

vFlash as an essential tool for "confined to home" system administrator
and any sysadmin who works with remote servers via VPN

News Dell DRAC Recommended Links PERC controller IPMI
  Configuring Platform Events Updating the DRAC 5 Firmware Humor Etc

Introduction

Enterprise version of iDRAC provides very interesting and useful additional functionality:  vFlash card. This card which can be 8GB or 16GB can be managed through several front-ends including iDRAC GUI,  RACADM Command Line Interface (CLI).  Interface is semi-debugged  but still if you use just one 2GB partition is usable. The max size of partition created is limited to 2GB. So this is suitable for boot disks and recovery disks but not can't accommodate the full ISO.  It's value is evident only if you need to administer a remote server via VPN.

ATTENTION

To perform any operations, especially downloading the boot image via VPN that takes a lot of time can lead to expiration of session.  So you better logoff and login to DRAC again to prevent expiration of session (default is 30 min).  

vFlash provides the USB  device emulation. It allows  iDRAC to share the partition data with the server operating system through the iDRAC built-in USB hub as an external hard disk drive (HDD), an optical drive (CD or DVD), or a flash memory device (FD). The emulated iDRAC USB device goes online when the operator attaches a vFlash partition.

Unlike regular USB drive its content can be updated remotely through the iDRAC GUI using DRAC network interface.  So in a way this is remotely controlled USB drive. This is the major attraction both as an installation tool (you are limited to 2GB ISO though, so boot from minimal ISO) or as a troubleshooting tool.

With ISO only two operations are supported:

Some of the applications of vFlash include:

vFlash SD card

Dell vFlash media inserts into the iDRAC enterprise daughter card on  the back of the Dell 11th generation rack and tower servers. And  in front of  the Dell 12th generation rack and tower servers. Blades like M630 must be removed from their chassis to access this port. 

 You can use Dell-provided SD cards or your own as long as you have the iDRAC Enterprise license. The vFlash device supports most of the generic SD cards.

One of the key enabling technologies of vFlash is the emulation of the out-of-band storage space as in-band USB storage device(s). This allows the content of the emulated USB device to be accessed and prepared remotely. The emulated storage type can be Floppy, CD, or Hard drive. This is critical to a system operator where the physical access to a server system is not possible.

The SD card can be up to 16GB but  only a single partition is typically used and that means are only first 2GB are used so it makes sense order 8GB card.  Theoretically customers can use the space on the vFlash card to create up to 16 partitions in sizes ranging from 1MB to 2GB.

Users can expose the partition to the operating system  like a USB flash drive (attach operation).

Detached cards can physically moved to another supported Dell server.  When the card is removed from the server it can be accessed on any PC. Files can be copied, moved, etc.  Of course. that makes sense only for local back servers (in blades the removal of the card requires removing the blade form the enclosure.

vFlash provides a custom deployment environment that allows for the automation of server configuration, scripts, and imaging. Multiple boot media disks are no longer required as you can now have them embedded on vFlash partitions.

Loading ISO into vFlash partition

You can create vFlash partition by loading an ISO image into it. New partition is created, you can't load into existing partition. In this case you do not need neither create new partition or format it. The only significant limitation is the current 2GB limit on ISO size (despite 4GB limit on the size of partition). 

First you need to define the six symbol label of the partition, for example CENT77

After that you can start loading the ISO image. Dialog ask you to point to the ISO and if ISO is of suitable size the process started. It is quite slow.

This vFlash operation can be performed remotely without physical access to the system. This is a great convenience for a data center system administrator when physical access to a system is difficult.

NOTE:

If your download operation was interrupted (for example due to flaky TCP/IP connection from home computer to rempote server) vFlash is completely hosed.  You can't deleted this "aborted" partition (indicator stucks on some number for example 43% forever). You't even reinitialize the card. But resetting DRAC sometimes helps.

Booting from vFlash partition

What is important is that vFlash partitions can be made bootable which makes then  an excellent management tool for sysadmins that have low bandwidth, or high latency, links to the remotely managed server.  In other words, all sysadmins who manage servers via VPN.

vFlash interface uses the notion of "attached". The latter indicates whether this partition is visible to the operating system as a USB device. Including on boot.

To be able to boot from vFlash partition it needs to be attached. The label of the attached partition will be displayed in the boot menu (accessible via F11 on boot).

NOTE: It also can be set via Server/Setup

If you are attaching or detaching a partition, the USB bus of the system is reset. This may affect applications (like the operating system) that are using vFlash and will disconnect iDRAC Virtual Media sessions.

NOTE: The detached partitions are not displayed in the boot order.

With this option, vFlash provides a convenient bootable media storage space for rescue CD and such readily available on an un-configured bare-metal system.

On the other hand, vFlash can also serve as an out-of-band storage space for the systems management functions running on the iDRAC.

Because the same vFlash space can be shared by both the in-band and out-of-band applications, the out-of-band systems management can place contents on the vFlash to be shared with the system applications.

vFlash partition management

The vFlash partition is the basic management unit. vFlash service can then emulate the vFlash partition as a separate USB storage device.

For a new SD card, the operator must initialize the card before its space can be managed by the vFlash system. The initialization procedure reformats the card, erases all existing content, and creates proprietary system files on the card. Though the system files are not hidden, an operator must not alter the files in any manner. As a vFlash security measure, any alteration to the system files will render the card uninitialized. If this occurs, the operator needs to go through another vFlash initialization procedure to erase all existing content on the card.

After initialization, the vFlash storage space can be managed in partitions. An operator can create up to 16 vFlash partitions. Each partition can have a size up to 4GB. When the vFlash SD card is inserted into a Windows workstation, the operator can observe that the partitions are in fact proprietary image files on the SD card and not physical disk partitions.

An operator creates partitions in several different ways. One can create an empty vFlash partition and then format it into FAT, EXT2, or EXT3 file systems. An operator can also upload a partition to vFlash from a remote disk image, for example, CD/DVD ISO images. Conversely, the operator can save the partition data to a remote partition image file.

Summary

The vFlash system supports both graphical user interface and the scriptable command line interfaces. Through these interfaces, a system operator can manage and use the vFlash system remotely. The full scripting ability allows a system operator to tailor and automate the vFlash usage to any systems management applications.

The ability to remotely download an ISO image through the DRAC network interface   to a local storage device is a very powerful feature unique to Dell systems with Enterprise version of DRAC.


Recommended Links

Top Visited

Bulletin Latest Past week Past month
Google Search





Etc

Society

Groupthink : Two Party System as Polyarchy : Corruption of Regulators : Bureaucracies : Understanding Micromanagers and Control Freaks : Toxic Managers :   Harvard Mafia : Diplomatic Communication : Surviving a Bad Performance Review : Insufficient Retirement Funds as Immanent Problem of Neoliberal Regime : PseudoScience : Who Rules America : Neoliberalism  : The Iron Law of Oligarchy : Libertarian Philosophy

Quotes

War and Peace : Skeptical Finance : John Kenneth Galbraith :Talleyrand : Oscar Wilde : Otto Von Bismarck : Keynes : George Carlin : Skeptics : Propaganda  : SE quotes : Language Design and Programming Quotes : Random IT-related quotesSomerset Maugham : Marcus Aurelius : Kurt Vonnegut : Eric Hoffer : Winston Churchill : Napoleon Bonaparte : Ambrose BierceBernard Shaw : Mark Twain Quotes

Bulletin:

Vol 25, No.12 (December, 2013) Rational Fools vs. Efficient Crooks The efficient markets hypothesis : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2013 : Unemployment Bulletin, 2010 :  Vol 23, No.10 (October, 2011) An observation about corporate security departments : Slightly Skeptical Euromaydan Chronicles, June 2014 : Greenspan legacy bulletin, 2008 : Vol 25, No.10 (October, 2013) Cryptolocker Trojan (Win32/Crilock.A) : Vol 25, No.08 (August, 2013) Cloud providers as intelligence collection hubs : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : Inequality Bulletin, 2009 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Copyleft Problems Bulletin, 2004 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Energy Bulletin, 2010 : Malware Protection Bulletin, 2010 : Vol 26, No.1 (January, 2013) Object-Oriented Cult : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2011 : Vol 23, No.11 (November, 2011) Softpanorama classification of sysadmin horror stories : Vol 25, No.05 (May, 2013) Corporate bullshit as a communication method  : Vol 25, No.06 (June, 2013) A Note on the Relationship of Brooks Law and Conway Law

History:

Fifty glorious years (1950-2000): the triumph of the US computer engineering : Donald Knuth : TAoCP and its Influence of Computer Science : Richard Stallman : Linus Torvalds  : Larry Wall  : John K. Ousterhout : CTSS : Multix OS Unix History : Unix shell history : VI editor : History of pipes concept : Solaris : MS DOSProgramming Languages History : PL/1 : Simula 67 : C : History of GCC developmentScripting Languages : Perl history   : OS History : Mail : DNS : SSH : CPU Instruction Sets : SPARC systems 1987-2006 : Norton Commander : Norton Utilities : Norton Ghost : Frontpage history : Malware Defense History : GNU Screen : OSS early history

Classic books:

The Peter Principle : Parkinson Law : 1984 : The Mythical Man-MonthHow to Solve It by George Polya : The Art of Computer Programming : The Elements of Programming Style : The Unix Hater’s Handbook : The Jargon file : The True Believer : Programming Pearls : The Good Soldier Svejk : The Power Elite

Most popular humor pages:

Manifest of the Softpanorama IT Slacker Society : Ten Commandments of the IT Slackers Society : Computer Humor Collection : BSD Logo Story : The Cuckoo's Egg : IT Slang : C++ Humor : ARE YOU A BBS ADDICT? : The Perl Purity Test : Object oriented programmers of all nations : Financial Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : The Most Comprehensive Collection of Editor-related Humor : Programming Language Humor : Goldman Sachs related humor : Greenspan humor : C Humor : Scripting Humor : Real Programmers Humor : Web Humor : GPL-related Humor : OFM Humor : Politically Incorrect Humor : IDS Humor : "Linux Sucks" Humor : Russian Musical Humor : Best Russian Programmer Humor : Microsoft plans to buy Catholic Church : Richard Stallman Related Humor : Admin Humor : Perl-related Humor : Linus Torvalds Related humor : PseudoScience Related Humor : Networking Humor : Shell Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2012 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2013 : Java Humor : Software Engineering Humor : Sun Solaris Related Humor : Education Humor : IBM Humor : Assembler-related Humor : VIM Humor : Computer Viruses Humor : Bright tomorrow is rescheduled to a day after tomorrow : Classic Computer Humor

The Last but not Least Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage and those who manage what they do not understand ~Archibald Putt. Ph.D


Copyright © 1996-2020 by Softpanorama Society. www.softpanorama.org was initially created as a service to the (now defunct) UN Sustainable Development Networking Programme (SDNP) without any remuneration. This document is an industrial compilation designed and created exclusively for educational use and is distributed under the Softpanorama Content License. Original materials copyright belong to respective owners. Quotes are made for educational purposes only in compliance with the fair use doctrine.

FAIR USE NOTICE This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to advance understanding of computer science, IT technology, economic, scientific, and social issues. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided by section 107 of the US Copyright Law according to which such material can be distributed without profit exclusively for research and educational purposes.

This is a Spartan WHYFF (We Help You For Free) site written by people for whom English is not a native language. Grammar and spelling errors should be expected. The site contain some broken links as it develops like a living tree...

You can use PayPal to to buy a cup of coffee for authors of this site

Disclaimer:

The statements, views and opinions presented on this web page are those of the author (or referenced source) and are not endorsed by, nor do they necessarily reflect, the opinions of the Softpanorama society. We do not warrant the correctness of the information provided or its fitness for any purpose. The site uses AdSense so you need to be aware of Google privacy policy. You you do not want to be tracked by Google please disable Javascript for this site. This site is perfectly usable without Javascript.

Last modified: February 21, 2021