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Getting Started with IBM BladeCenter Print E-mail
Written by Luke Robertson   
Monday, 31 May 2010 16:41

Getting Started with IBM BladeCenter



Change Management. 2

Introduction. 2

Understanding the Hardware. 3

BladeCenter, Blades and Modules. 3

Connecting Storage. 5

Networking. 6

Blade Start Up. 7

AMM... 8

Setup. 8

Update Firmware. 8

SAS Module Zoning. 9

Configuring the Network. 10

Conclusion. 11

Works Cited. 11


Change Management





Sections Modified



Document Creation





This article provides a guide to getting started with blades and the BladeCenter chassis. As there are many ways the network could be configured, a specific scenario is presented here. It involves the use of a few blades, external storage, two internal switches and two internal SAS modules.






Understanding the Hardware

BladeCenter, Blades and Modules

The BladeCenter S looks like the pictures shown below:

BladeCenter Front:

BladeCenter Back:

Other models of BladeCenter (such as the ‘H’) are similar. Some don’t have the option to install onboard storage (pictured on the left and right as blank panels), but may have more room for additional blades.

In this article, we consider the scenario of a BladeCenter S with external storage (DS3200), and no internal storage.

The power to the BladeCenter S is provided by four standard power cords on the back. Larger models may have special power requirements, such as three-phase power. The picture shows the two most common power connectors that can be used.

There is no on switch for the BladeCenter, so once power is connected it is considered on, and any modules installed in the back start to boot (more on the modules later).

Each individual blade slides in the front, and has its own power button. When power is first connected, the power light on the front will flash rapidly as it ‘charges up’. When the flashing slows down, it is ready to be started.

Also on the front of each blade are two KVM buttons. One controls which Blade uses the keyboard, mouse and monitor. The other controls which blade uses the DVD drive and USB ports on the front. When you press the KVM buttons, they light up so you can see which blade is using those resources.

In the back of the blade there are four I/O slots for modules to be installed. In this scenario, there are two switch modules (installed in I/O 1 and 2) and two SAS modules (installed in I/O 3 and 4). The ports on the modules can be mapped directly to the blades. More information on how this works soon.

The MM slot on the back is for the management module. An MM (Management Module) or AMM (Advanced Management Module) can be installed (in this scenario, the AMM is used). The AMM allows a keyboard, mouse, monitor, etc to be used.


Connecting Storage

Each blade has its own storage, which can be a maximum of two hard disks. These disks are usually in a RAID mirror. This is for its operating system to boot from. Once its operating system has been started, it can then access additional storage.

Additional storage can be stored internal to the BladeCenter, or external. Internal storage can be seen on the front of the BladeCentre chassis. The two blank areas on the left and right sides of the picture shown before is where the hard disks are installed. Additionally, in the same section as the DVD drive, there are two slots where the RAID controller and battery are installed.

External storage can be connected to an appropriate module on the back of the chassis. In this scenario, we are using an IBM DS3200, which is SAS enabled storage.

DS3200 Front:

DS3200 Back:

On the back of the DS3200 there are two controllers (controller A and B). Each has two SAS ports and a network interface. One of each SAS port is the expansion port that can be used to add additional storage (such as an EXP3000). The other ports (the ‘host channel’) connect to the ports in the SAS modules on the chassis. Usually one controller goes to one module, and the other controller goes to the other module for redundancy.

If applicable, other SAS devices (such as a tape library) can be connected to the SAS modules.



Each blade has four internal network cards which connect directly with the switch modules one and two. Each switch has six ports external ports, and two internal ports to connect to the blades. This means that each blade has two NICs connecting to each switch (note that this may vary depending on the model of switch module installed).

The blade connection to the switch can be symbolised as below. This shows how each blade connects two NICs to each switch, and each switch has six external connections.


This means that each switch has the capability of 12 internal ports (two ports per blade with up to six blades in the S series chassis):



Similarly, Each blade has an internal SAS connector connected to each SAS I/O module. Each SAS I/O module has four external SAS connections. This is the same principal as the switches.


Blade Start Up

To get the blade to boot most operating systems, first turn on legacy booting. Start the blade, and on the splash screen, press F1 to enter setup. Go to boot options, and set the boot order to CDROM -> Legacy Only -> HDD 1 -> HDD 2 -> HDD 3 -> Floppy -> PXE

On start-up, enter the SAS BIOS and confirm that RAID on the blade server is configured. If not, create an array




The AMM must be setup correctly in order to manage the BladeCenter. This includes managing the other I/O modules to create VLANs, etc.

The AMM’s network port can be connected externally to one of the switch modules if you want to configure the AMM from one of the blades. Alternatively, connect another system or notebook directly to the AMM.

The AMM uses the special 4095 VLAN for management. This is a special reserved VLAN that can’t be edited (HomChaudhuri & Foschiano, 2010), allowing it to connect to the other modules. It also uses VLAN 1 by default, which is what the external NIC uses. This VLAN can be changed according to your network design.

AMM is configured in a web browser. So you will need another PC, or a blade with an OS installed.

Browse to in Internet Explorer. The username is USERID and the default password is PASSW0RD

Run through the express setup wizard:

· Set the AMM name, location and contact

· Configure the NIC’s static IP, hostname and gateway

· Configure IP settings in the I/O modules

· Generate a self-signed certificate

· Specify DNS servers

· Configure notifications

· Set time zones

· Storage configuration – do not change zone settings

· Service Advisor – turn off


Update Firmware

Update AMM module firmware (available on the IBM site). Update through the AMM management webpage.


SAS Module Zoning

The first thing to do is update the firmware to the SAS modules. Make sure both modules have the same firmware.

Each SAS connection has a ‘zone group ID’. Each group ID can be mapped to another SAS connection. This means that (for example) SAS port 1 on one or both switches can be connected to blades one and two.

In our scenario, the first port of each SAS module (which has the external storage connected) needs to be connected (zoned) to all blades, as they all share the storage. Additionally, there may be a tape library in port two on SAS module one that needs to be zoned to blade six which is running the backup software.

SAS zoning is configured through the IBM SCM (Storage Configuration Manager) software. At the time of writing, it is not supported on Server 2008 R2. Install SCM on a blade or some other machine. When the software starts, log on with a local username and password.

Navigate to BladeCenter SAS Module -> Configuratuin -> SAS zoning. Click ‘all SAS modules’ then ‘add a SAS module’ then add the IP addresses of the SAS modules. By default, they are and

Go back to SAS zoning. Select an existing configuration and edit it. it is best to turn off the SAS ports for blades that do not need them. Save the config, and give it a name and description. Select the config you edited to activate it.

Navigate to configuration -> ports. Select all the external SAS ports to enable them. Note that if the SAS modules are restarted (including losing power to the BladeCenter) the ports will have the be enabled again. This is an IBM security feature.

From here, configure your external storage as normal. For example, to configure the DS3200, install IBM Storage Manager, and create the array, and present it to the appropriate hosts.


Configuring the Network

The network settings may vary based on model. First, connect to the switches through a web console and upgrade the firmware on both switches. They have an OS and boot image to be updated. The OS can leave the old version as a backup. The default IPs of the switches are and

At the top of the screen, notice how there is options to view the configuration and to change the configuration. Make sure you are in the right section.

In general setup, remember to set dates, times and regional settings. Forgetting to do this will make log analysis tricky later.

In the tree down the left, you can create VLANs, setup trunking or LACP, configure VRRP, STP and many other options.

It is recommended to create LACP links between the switches and other switches on the network in a configuration similar to this (this requires STP to be working correctly, which may already be setup by default):


Add additional interface IPs for your networks. For example, if you create two VLANs for ‘admin’ and ‘HR’, and the subnets are and, then you will want to create interfaces for the switches on each subnet. For example, you may set up and as well as and

With interfaces on each subnet, you can setup VRRP on one or both of the switches for layer three routing between your VLANs.



There is a lot more you can do with the BladeCenter, but this should have provided a basic starting point. From here you can install operating systems on the blades, and even virtualise multiple operating systems in XenServer or VMWare.


Works Cited

HomChaudhuri, S., & Foschiano, M. (2010, Feburary). Scalable Security in a Multi-Client Environment. Request for Comments 5517 .



Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 June 2010 11:15