Just a quick post that might be of interest to anyone using Dell PowerEdge servers.
You might have noticed that quite a few of the rack mounted and stand alone models come with an extra ethernet port, with a spanner icon above them.
We had noticed these ages ago, but never really paid them much attention. We have recently started to look at them, and they are very useful indeed.
They have various name (ERA, DRAC, RAC) but basicly they give you bios level access to the machine, even when the OS has hung/crashed and you cant use normal remote access tools like VNC and Microsoft’s in built remote desktop (when using remote desktop use a /console switch on windows 2003 to get to the servers console session).
You assign the RAC card an IP address (you can do this in the dell server assistant or when the servers booting), then connect to the ip address in a browser and you get low level access to reboot the server, power cycle it, turn it off etc without ever getting in the car and driving to the site!
It will also give you some server logs and other config options. The remote access tab should let you actually control the pc (even the POST screens) over a VNC like connection, but this doesn’t always seam to work very well. Hopefully a new revision of the firmware will fix that.