Thursday, December 30, 2010

Windows Server 2008 R2 on an HP Proliant DL380 G5

Here is a long story about the problems I encountered trying to build a quick lab environment at the office. For a little background, back in the days of Compaq Proliant servers and the early days following the HP merger, I knew this hardware pretty well. But anything after the G2 era, my focus was not on the server hardware, but on the applications and storage.

I pulled two HP Proliant DL380 G5 servers out of the storage room, installed eight gigs of memory and filled the drive bays with a mix of 72 and 146 gigabyte drives. Except for the minimal ram, they seemed like they would make fine lab servers.

I popped in a trusty Windows Server 2008 R2 DVD and let the install begin, and walked away. I returned to what seemed like a minor glitch, an error message that read "The computer restarted unexpectedly or encountered an unexpected error. Windows instlation cannot proceed. To install Windows, click "OK" to restart the computer, and then restart the installation"

What seemed minor was not so, a simple reboot didn't fix it, and I got the same error when trying to install on the other server, but this time I didn't walk away during the instillation, I watched, and realized that I had a bigger problem, the dreaded blue screen of death.


Stop: 0x000000FE (0x0000000000000008, 0x0000000000000006, 0x0000000000000006, 0xFFFFFA8006ffa000)

A bigger problem, yes, but it seemed simple enough, as these issues are normally just a driver problem and I figured that installing with the HP Proliant SmartStart CD would do the trick. I didn't have one handy, so I downloaded the latest version, 8.6, from HP's web site. Unfortunately, a whole new problem emerged as the SmartStart installer could not detect the HP SmartArray P400 controller and no drives were available for installation. Easy, I thought, I'll just try the previous version of SmartStart, 8.5, but that didn't work either. I decided to try one more version of SmartStart, the earliest version that supported Windows Server 2008 R2, which was 8.3, which successfully recognized the controller and let me continue with the installation. Unfortunately, the outcome was the same as my previous attempts with just the Windows DVD, a blue screen failure during setup.

Thinking back to the day when I worked with server hardware more regularly, I figured I should update the BIOS, Firmware, etc. as I knew they were quite out of date. The DL380 G5 was at BIOS Version P56 with a date of 11/8/2006 and the SmartArray controller was at version 1.18.

I thought that HP had released bootable CDs that you could use to update your firmware components, but I wasn't able to find it in my time frame, so I did the next best thing, downloaded the 32 bit edition of the SmartStart CD, keeping with the 8.3 version that recognized the array controller before. I installed Windows Server 2003. Windows Server 2003 installed just fine and I was able to use that as the base operating system for installing all the firmware updates the server needed.

Once the hardware had been updated, I returned to the 64 bit HP SmartStart 8.6 CD to install Windows Server 2008 R2. As I expected, the 8.6 CD recognized the array controller, and I was able to install Windows Server 2008 R2 without a hitch. Finally, I can do what I had planned to do during this slow week between Christmas and the new year.

I don't miss this, but I'm glad I had the past experience to call upon.

Old Firmware:
BIOS Version P56 11/8/2006
HP Smart Array P400 v 1.18
HP NC-Series Broadcom NIC v1.9.6
Disk Drives HPD9
Disk Drives HPD5

New Firmware:
BIOS Version P56 04/26/2010
HP Smart Array P400 v 7.22
HP NC-Series Broadcom NIC v2.1.5.9
Disk Drives HPDA
Disk Drives HPDD(C)