This past week I was deploying Windows 2003 Server 64bit onto a few blades within a Cisco UCS chassis and ran into a couple minor driver issues. The main item I want to focus on with this post is that the required drivers to detect the local disk controllers within the Cisco blades are not included within Windows 2003 Server so installation can be problematic without the proper preparation. I will be posting a second article on installing drivers for the Menlo adapter as it too proved challenging especially from an HBA level requiring some additional Microsoft hotfixes. Something to call out right from the beginning is that the Palo adapter is NOT supported when utilizing Windows 2003 64bit version so if that’s what you’re looking to utilize, you better get some Menlo adapters! I think as we see more of UCS being deployed it’s evident that the infrastructure is to not only be utilized for virtualization specific services. Organizations obviously see the power and simplicity in what UCS has to offer and are looking beyond virtualization to serve specific IT needs (i.e Windows, Linux, etc).
On with getting Windows 2003 Server installed…
So to get around the lack of native support for the storage controllers, you basically have two options to get Windows installed – Pressing F6 during the install boot process to specify third party drivers or, slipstream the required drivers into the Windows media so hardware can be detected and installed automatically. The first option I thought would be easiest as it had been a while since I had done any slipstreaming with Windows. I went out to Cisco’s site to grab the UCS drivers which can be found here -Note: A valid Cisco login will be required. Make sure to grab the drivers and not the utilities ISO. The most recent version at the time of this writing was “ucs-b2xx-drivers-1.3.1e.iso”.
After downloading the driver ISO file, I extracted the drivers required for the specific blade I was installing onto. The drivers are nicely organized within the ISO so you should be able to find them very easy. To determine what storage controller is installed into your blade, you can always check the Inventory tab with in UCS Manager.
Cisco conveniently provides a floppy disk image included in the corresponding driver folder which is the required media type by Windows during this third party driver install. Easy enough I thought…I quickly attached the floppy disk image within Virtual Media in UCS Manager, back in the KVM console I continue for the third party driver install and Windows fails to find the hardware. After reconfirming I had the correct driver selected and ensuring media is mapped within Virtual Media, and it continuing to fail I decide to go down the slipstreaming route.
For those of you not familiar with slipstreaming, it is essentially a way to imbed third party drivers, security patches, service packs, etc. into Windows install media so that during the installation of the OS, the items added get automatically installed. It does take a little prep work but I found this was the best (and the only for my situation) way to get Windows to successfully detect the storage controller within the blade. One thing that is also great about this process is you can provide all the drivers (not just the storage controller) so after Windows is installed ALL components will be detected and have the proper driver installed. So on with the slipstreaming process I used…
- To start out, you’ll need your Windows install media. I had an ISO but the physical media will work as well.
- Go here to download and install nLite. nLite is a great free utility that allows the modification of OS install media to allow things such as slipstreaming. It also has a lot of other great feature sets that I would encourage you to explore.
- Once installed, launch nLite and click “Next” at the Welcome screen.
- Browse to your install media – If you have an ISO you’ll need to mount it.
- nLite will ask where to save the install files for modification. Click OK and then browse to a location with enough disk space (1.2GB for Windows 2003). If needed, you can create a new folder during this process.
- Once the folder is specified nLite will begin to copy the install files to the specified folder.
- When the copy finishes click OK to continue. Notice how nLite detects the OS version.
- Click Next to continue at the next screen asking to import presets.
- At this screen this is where we’ll tell nLite we want to integrate additional drivers into Windows. Make sure you select “Bootable ISO” so when finished we can use the ISO within Virtual Media to install Windows.
- It is in this next step where we will specify what drivers to integrate into Windows. Click “Insert” and you’ll have two options – Single driver or Multiple drivers. For this example we’ll just be integrating a single driver but you CAN do multiples if wanted such as HBA and NIC drivers, etc. In my case I was using the 1040E LSI storage controller. It’s important to choose TXT mode driver install over PNP otherwise Windows will not automatically detect and install the driver during the initial install process.
- When all drivers have been chosen, click Next to continue.
- Click “Yes” to begin the slipstreaming process of the drivers into the Windows install files.
- When finished processing, click Next to continue.
- The final step is to create the ISO. Input a name you’d like as the Label and then click on “Make ISO” to indicate where you would like the ISO saved to and to start the ISO creation process.
- The process is complete when nLite indicates the ISO has been created successfully.
If you’ve made it this far the last step of the process is to mount the ISO you just created within Virtual Media in UCS Manager and boot the blade. If done correctly, Windows 2003 should automatically detect the storage controller and proceed with the install.
I hope the above helps when there is a requirement for Windows within your UCS environment. Any issues or questions feel free to leave some comments and I’ll be happy to help! As mentioned in the beginning, I’ll be posting a second post on how to get the Menlo adapter up and running.