Skip to main content

Further adventures of XenServer on the HP N40L Microserver

We all know my delight in using the excellent N40L for all sorts of things. Recently a client of mine had issues with their Dell server - a server that had cost them over $20,000 5 years ago. It runs Windows SBS2003 and does a bit of file serving and not much else. I've migrated them to Google Apps for mail/calendar etc so they aren't even using Exchange. Unfortunately this client has fallen on hard times with the GFC so when this huge and expensive server of theirs began to fail, they asked for a low cost option to save their data and have a minimum of downtime.

I had just purchased an N40L for my test lab and as their disks continued to decline was able to get a complete image of the system. What surprised me was they had a 5 year old server with 7 year old disks in it! What the? I acquired some Western Digital Red Drives and installed them and 8 GB of RAM into the N40L. My initial idea was to use Acronis or similar to do a Universal Restore of the data to the N40L, update drivers and software and put the machine back in. After all, this server lives in their main office space - you can imagine what a Dell 2950 Tower server sounds like in your ear day after day.

Unfortunately my imaging project was unsuccessful. Windows SBS 2003 did not want to play the game and so I was left pondering my next move. I could buy a new copy of Windows SBS (2011 in this case) and migrate data across, a time consuming effort and with the Microsoft Tax on Australian software not an inexpensive option. I could do something dodgy and get a.... no no no. Life is too short to pirate software. At any rate, the option of a physical to virtual migration was available. So I installed XenServer 6 on the HP N40L. I installed to one disk and set up the hardware (really software) RAID via the BIOS. I'm not sure if this mirroring will actually work, because XenServer only sees the two disks. I reasoned that if software RAID is running and I install to one disk, then the BIOS level RAID should mirror both the disks.... when I have the leisure I'll test this. At any rate, 15 minutes later XenServer was up and running and ready for stuff to happen.

Because I was in a hurry I slammed a copy of XenCentre on my notebook, connected to the server and configured a Windows 2003 SBS guest with roughly the same parameters (disk, RAM etc) as the original server, imaged it across as if it was a physical server and held my breath. The server booted in the virtual environment successfully! It was running like a bucket of pus, but after installing the Xen drivers it was running better than the previous version - this made my clients very happy. I configured an external USB drive to act as the back up device and kicked a backup off. It failed and has continued to fail - there seems to be some odd conflict with the device.... at any rate, the server is running and now I need to put a small NAS in for backup purposes - one which I will mirror to an offsite location.

So for a relatively short amount of downtime and much less than a new, full sized server they are operational. When it's time for a proper new server, I'll set it up another XenServer - using hardware RAID this time (which will work) and simply migrate. The server isn't forward facing and the firewall allows only file serving with all other services disabled or firewalled off. It makes for minimal disruption for the client and once I manage to convince them to migrate to FreeBSD or GNU/Linux for their file serving the basic platform will be ready to go - I won't even need to buy another server, simply configure an additional VM and away we go.


Popular posts from this blog

Windows 10 Enterprise Eval - gotchas

After an annoying turn of events where my Windows 10 Enterprise USB drive failed, attempts to install Win10 onto a computer failed miserably. I turned to the net and managed to get my hands on Microsoft's Windows 10 Enterprise Evaluation. I have an enterprise key so I thought - cool! Here's the opportunity to get it going and to then upgrade the license later. Full install, patched etc and all is swell. Except when I try to upgrade. I straight up tried changing the licence key only to get a variety of errors, most of which are pertaining to the activation system being unavailable. The I try this: but it doesn't work either. Next I'll try this: h ttp:// And if all else fails, in goes the bootable USB I've now created. If only I'd had this in the first instance I would not be writing t

Fixing a black screen after doing a Kali Linux update

Kali Linux is a rolling Linux distribution designed for security and penetration work. You can find details on it here: . We run this excellent product for a range of different security work and it's been great. I built the image in VMplayer, then shared it to the team and we've all been at it since. A recent update broke it though - black screen, no network and completely unresponsive. There are lots of posts about similar things - mostly to do with graphics adaptors, however, we found that executing the following at a root prompt fixed it. But how to get to the root prompt from a blank screen? Linux has a number of terminals available to the user - most of us use the graphical one to do our day to day, but you can access a command line prompt without much trouble. Simply hold CTRL-ALT and then F2 or F3 down at the same time and it drops you to a command line login. BOOM. Time to fix it up. For me, and for the other fellas in the team, all it too was to

Plone - the open source Content Management System - a review

One of my clients, a non-profit, has a lot of files on it's clients. They need a way to digitally store these files, securely and with availability for certain people. They also need these files to expire and be deleted after a given length of time - usually about 7 years. These were the parameters I was given to search for a Document Management System (DMS) or more commonly a Content Management System (CMS). There are quite a lot of them, but most are designed for front facing information delivery - that is, to write something, put it up for review, have it reviewed and then published. We do not want this data published ever - and some CMS's make that a bit tricky to manage. So at the end of the day, I looked into several CMS systems that looked like they could be useful. The first one to be reviewed was OpenKM ( ). It looked OK, was open source which is preferable and seemed to have solid security and publishing options. Backing up the database and upgradin