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System Consoles: Direct, In-Band Management, Out-of-Band Management.

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Every server (virtual or physical) needs a console: and the console can be provided through hardware directly connected, software for remote connections, local connections, through a KVM, etc.

This document explains the different types of consoles, their advantages and disadvantages.
A system admin will soon or later have to connect to a system console directly: on system installation, on hardware failure, or in case of a mayor failure when the system does not start up appropriately.

A hardware engineer will mostly use direct connections to the system nearly exclusively, as it's the only way to deal directly with the hardware, ruling out java applets, web servers, etc (but this will depend on the operation to be performed and on the hardware engineer itself).

Some systems are configured through a second system acting as a hardware console, like the Hardware Management Console (HMC) for IBM systems (POWER and System z based servers).

Some others are configured through a connection to an integrated console on the server/hardware, which can be remotely accessed via TELNET, SSH, HTTP or HTTPS.
A few years ago a SERIAL connection was common, and to connect to older systems, this will be the only option.


Console Types

There are various types of hardware consoles: In-Band Management, Out-of-Band Management, Direct connections.
 
  • Direct Connections are either performed via pluging a monitor, mouse and keyboard to the server, or plugging a laptop to a serial port, an ethernet port or even a USB port to get a console session. This are the oldest type of console connections, and the less flexible, however it is the only way to recover access to a server when the remote administration password or the network has been lost.
 
  • In-Band Management are based on connectivity to the server's host OS using management software, examples would be Terminal Services Remote Desktop (RDP), VNC, Microsoft Management Console (MMC), SSH, etc. This type of consoles are available in practically every server, as it relies on the Operating System remote administration facilities, or in installable software (like VNC, TeamViewer, LogMeIn, etc.). This is the most commonly available console, but it's usually not good in case of hardware failure as it needs the system up and running.
 
  • Out-of-Band Management are based on connectivity to a Service Processor (SP), and use a dedicated network connection, so they can perform power cycles of the hardware that they manage (power on/off & reboot), and advanced features like hardware tests, support information collection and firmware upgrades.  It's also called Lights-Out-Management or LOM, since you can power on a server remotely, without being in the computer room.   This is the best type of console connection, as you are basically connecting to a second device, which is not reliable on the server's hardware, and that can control the hardware to perform power cycles and diagnostics. Level entry server might not come with this facility to save costs, or might offer it after paying for an extra licence, but all mid-range and high-end servers have this facility.

The three methods mentioned before are the available types of consoles.
However before we have mentioned the Hardware Console Managers like IBM's HMC (Hardware Management Console) and SDMC (Systems Director Management Console). 

This console managers are basically a second server with a dedicated Operating System and connections to other system's Out-of-Band Management Service Processors, which permits performing actions remotely to a number of servers via one central appliance.

All converged and hyper-converged computing systems have an embedded Hardware or Software Console Manager to manage all the different hardware equipment on the system from one location.

In IBM's BladeCenters this is called AMM (Advanced Management Module), in Oracle's Blades CMM (Chassis monitoring module), in Dell's Blades CMC (Chassis Management Controller), in IBM's PureSystems FSM (Flex System Manager), in HPs BladeSystem OA (Onboard Administrator), etc.

Direct connections to a physical server can therefore be performed remotely through a Hardware Console Manager, through In-Band & Out-of-band consoles, or directly at the computer room terminals.


Console Names

Consoles are known by many names depending on hardware vendors:

Sun Microsystems:     
ALOM (Advanced Light Out Manager), 
ILOM (Integrated Lights Out Manager),
Oracle:             
ILOM (Integrated Lights Out Manager).
CMM (Chassis Monitoring Module).
IBM:                 
AMM (Advanced Management Module),  
HMC (Hardware Management Console), 
IMM (Integrated Management Module), 
ASM (Advanced Service Management),
CMM (Chassis Management Module),
FSM (Flex System Manager).
Dell:                 
iDRAC (Integrated Dell Remote Access Controller),
DRAC (Dell Remote Access Controller),
CMC (Chassis Management Controller).
HP:                    
ILO (Integrated Lights Out),
OA (Onboard Administrator).
Fujitsu:             
IRMC (Integrated Remote Management Console).
 
AmericanMegatrends:    
MegaRAC (Mega Remote Access Controller) -for third party hardware vendors-
etc

AMM IBM:
AMM_IBM.jpgHMC IBM (Old version):
HMC_IBM_old.jpgHMC IBM (New version):
HMC_IBM_new.jpgILOM Oracle:
ILOM_Oracle.jpgiRMC Fujitsu:
iRMC_Fujitsu.jpg
Console Defaults

It is HIGHLY recommended to setup the consoles correctly and change it's default values on hardware installation time.
In case this has not been done properly, we can check by using the following table:


Default IPs and Passwords
 
AMM        
IP:    192.168.70.125       MASK: 255.255.255.0         
Username: USERID         Password: PASSW0RD (the o is a zero)      

ASM   
IP:                                      MASK: 255.255.255.0        
Username: administrator Password: admin
 


CMM
IP:    192.168.70.100       MASK: 255.255.255.0         
Username: USERID         Password: PASSW0RD (the o is a zero)      

FSM
IP:                                       MASK: 255.255.255.0         
Username: USERID         Password: Passw0rd (the o is a zero)      
Username: pe                  Password: Passw0rd (the o is a zero)  

HMC        
IP:    169.254.2.147 (P6-P8)   MASK: 255.255.255.0             
Username: hscroot        Password: abc123
IP:    192.168.2.147 (P5) MASK: 255.255.255.0        
Username: hscroot        Password: abc123    
iDRAC:    
IP:    192.168.0.120         MASK: 255.255.255.0         
Username: root              Password: calvin

ILO   
IP:    *DHCP*                   MASK: *DHCP*             
Username: Administrator    Password: *RANDOM* (sticker on the server)

ILOM    
IP:    192.168.1.200        MASK: 255.255.255.0         
Username: root             Password: changeme
 
IMM        
IP:    192.168.70.125      MASK: 255.255.255.0         
Username: USERID        Password: PASSW0RD / passw0rd (the o is a zero)
IRCM    
IP:    111.11.11.111        MASK: 255.255.255.0        
Username: admin         Password: admin

Note that security-wise, direct consoles don't need much security enforcement as you first of all need physical access (and with physical access and knowledge, any system can be reset to default values), however all remote accesses must be properly secured and configured without default values (since they are easily obtained on the internet). 


Disaster Recovery

In case of losing the password for a console, the recovery procedure usually involves a power off or reset to default factory values, and a reconfiguration of the Console, which depending on the system might need a full power off of the equipment (with impact on the production system, so it will have to be performed out-of-hours), or just of the Service Processor (in this case it does not have impact on the production system).

In any case, when doubts arise we'll be better off opening a case with the manufacturer's hardware support team, of refer to the hardware documentation for our specific server type and model.
That's why it is always wise to keep a local copy of the HW documentation, specially useful when one of our systems becomes obsolete, and support for it might not be available anymore.
 

Final thoughts

With all this information, we now know a little bit more about the different types of consoles that are out here and we can handle, and hopefully review the documentation of our systems, so we don't need to run around when a hardware failure occurs, and the system just refuses to come back on after a power on. 

But how to run diagnostics and check for hardware failures is a different kettle of fish, and material for another article...

Thank you for reading my article, feel free to leave me some feedback regarding the content or to recommend future articles. 

If you liked this article, or have found it useful, please click the "Good Article?" button at the bottom of this article.
 
I look forward to hearing from you. -  Carlos Ijalba ( LinkedIn
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2 Comments
 
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Expert Comment

by:DLeaver
Marked as Good article, nice to have all the vendor information in one place.

I would add that the IBM Flex System Manager (FSM) is now being phased out and being replaced with the Lenovo XClarity virtual appliance.  Any existing FSM customers are entitled to the XClarity upgrade.
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by:Carlos Ijalba
Thanks DLeaver,

And thank you for the info regarding FSM, it's good to know and a great addition to the article.
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