Monday, August 2, 2010

Adventures Installing Linux on a Thumper

The other day I had a need to do some testing which required RHEL 5.4 or CentOS 5.4 installed on an X86-64 server. The only available server in the lab was a Sun X4500 (Thumper). It was Sun’s answer to a high density storage server housing 48 SATA drives in a 4U form factor. Great I thought, lots of disk space for my testing. I went through the Linux install no problem. The installer selected /dev/sda for the installation. No problem, I clicked on through the menus. Upon reboot, I found myself back at the previously installed Solaris.

Digging a little deeper, I found that the disk drives are configured with 8 drives on 6 different PCI busses. The BIOS can only boot from 2 of the 48 available drives. Unfortunately, Sun designed the system such that the bootable drives are not enumerated first. The bootable drives are located on PCI Bus 6, targets 0 & 4. Since I was booted back into Solaris, I ran the format command to determine which drive was the boot drive. It was the 25th drive listed by format.

So I decided to do another Linux install and select /dev/sdy (#25 in the enumeration) as the install drive. I deselected all other drives in the list. Next, I selected the “Edit Boot Loader Options” check box. I saw that /dev/sda was still selected for the location to install the MBR. I selected the option to change the drive order and pushed /dev/sdy to the top of the list. Now the location to install the MBR was /dev/sdy. After the install completed, the Thumper successfully booted CentOS.

In the end, I wound up installing RHEL 5.4 to satisfy the software requirements for my test. I performed the same install process for RHEL 5.4 and it installed and booted successfully.

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