Dell's DRAC card sucks

Date October 30, 2008

I've worked with the my 1855 blade enclosure for a while, now, and I feel pretty confident in saying the following:

A) Dell's DRAC is a very useful device which facilitates remote administration

B) at least it would, if it didn't suck so much

The blade enclosure comes with a DRAC module that is inserted into a slot in the back. It's paired with an avocent KVM module connected to the blade units. You access the KVM through the DRAC web site, which is the real problem.

Every Dell technician I've complained to has said the same thing. "Yes, the DRAC is slow. Very slow, and underpowered". It's not just slow, it vacillates between borderline and completely unusable. On a good day, expect 3 minutes for the page to load. On a bad day, don't expect to load the whole page.

It also seems to occasionally lose track of the KVM. It's happened a few times so far, and there doesn't seem to be any reason for it. Either the DRAC will see the KVM and not be able to administer it (like what is happening right now), or the DRAC won't see the KVM at all.

It is very frustrating, and Dell's techs seem apologetic, but there doesn't appear to be a fix for it. It just sucks.

Next time I'm headed into the colocation, I'm just hooking the console port into the KVM that is connected to the non-blade servers. At least that way I'm not reliant on Dell's sorry excuse for a controller to access the video on my servers.

  • John

    I was just at our colo replacing a dead fan on one of our servers and the data-center guy was talking about how they call DRAC "drag" because it's so slow. I mean... not that funny I guess...

  • Matt

    @John

    Tell him I sympathize with him. Thanks for the comment!

  • Anonymous

    We had similar problems with our dell servers, but since we are now using Sun server I love the iLom. It's buildin and works mostly flawless with Windows and Linux clients.

  • Dan C

    Next time.. you won't buy Dell.

    ;)

  • bunk

    which DRAC? drac 5 isn't the easiest to get working, I've struggled with the plugins for KVM and virtual media (no-go on 64bit fc9 so far). But once that's set up, it's pretty usable. I can't even complain about performace. Better than any KVM solution I've seen.

    I was disappointed that no SNMP sensor data is available on the DRAC interface, you need to poll the OS with openmanage installed instead.

    I have no nice things to say about SUN's iLOM cards other than: recent firmware updates have made things better.

  • Matt

    @anonymous

    iLom sounds interesting. That's great that it's properly engineered, as opposed to Dell's which sounds great until you try it.

    @dan c

    I'm stuck with Dell for this generation, but I'm open to suggestions for the next one. Who do you like?

  • Matt

    @bunk

    Here's the info from my DRAC units.

    DRAC/MC Date/Time=Thu Oct 30 14:39:36 2008 GMT+00:00
    Primary DRAC/MC Version=1.5.0 (Build 10.01)
    Standby DRAC/MC Version=1.5.0 (Build 10.01)
    Firmware Updated=Tue Oct 07 23:33:33 2008 GMT+00:00
    Hardware Version=A00

  • Reamer77

    Funny, I'm now cursing Solaris ILOM (T5120's). I guess it's because of lack of familiarity.

    I agree that the DRAC for Dell Blades does suck. We ended up buying their IPKVM for actual KVM remote management (wasn't spectacular either).

    The DRACs we had at my last job for the 2950's didn't seem that bad though. Granted, we weren't running Windows servers, so there was little overhead for RHEL4 and command line.

  • Matt

    @reamer77

    I've not looked into the DRAC units for the individual servers. Are they not dedicated physical modules like the enclosures', or do they "borrow" resources from the system?

  • nixar

    Their farktastic DRAC 5 KVM doesn't work:
    - with FF 3.0 on Linux / Windows
    - on IE 7.0

    Why did they have to make a browser plugin? What's wrong with a standalone app?

    I could get IBM's RSA II working just fine; and that just cost Dell €200k on the latest project I was working on.

  • Ernie Oporto

    HP's iLO cards are actually really nice, and you can even use them in Dells. Never had an issue with iLO speed on an HP. You gotta get them to fix that since remote console control is a basic infrastructure management requirement.

  • Dan C

    Matt> I'm a fan of Big Blue old and new primarily.

    Actually most vendors' offerings have their flaws in one way or another.

    But some are engineered better from the off.

  • Reamer77

    @matt

    On the PE2950's, they *seemed* to be independent of the system. You could power on and off the server, reset it, etc. I'm assuming it's independent since it's a card, and I could have a PE2950 turned off, and then through its DRAC, turn the server back on; or perform other functions like mounting an iso file.

  • Matt

    wow, I opened a can of worms with this post!

    @nixar: I've noticed a lot of IPKVM stuff lately that used crappy java applets. My newer Belkin IPKVM doesn't work without IE6, and the one from a year ago works fine still. I don't know what is behind it, but I wish they'd stop.

    @ernie oporto
    Wild, the HP card worked in Dell? Are they a bus card, like PCI?

    @dan c
    I haven't worked with a "large" amount of vendors, but I've noticed a lot of underlying differences. We got some Silicon Mechanics machines at one point. They both had their rabbit ears on the front of the case break off. They were made of cheap plastic. That should have been a sign.

    @reamer77
    That sounds great. I'm going to go shopping and see if I can get some for a couple of machines that I would rather not lose control of and have to go visit the colo. Thanks for the heads up.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed with ernie on the HP ilo. They work great and you can either use a browser plugin with ie, or java on any os.

    Haven't use one as an add on card, but we buy hp servers with the ilo2 built in.

  • Anonymous

    Just installed the new firmware 1.40 and my DRAC now works like a charm. No more slow web GUI response, power charts, console redirection now works with Firefox.

  • Matt

    @Anonymous

    I'll check it out. Thanks for the heads up. If it works, I'll make a post about it. Choirs of angels will sing, and much happiness will reign down.

  • Alex

    We have DRAC 5 cards in about 100 Dell 2950 systems and IMHO they work great.

    Very fast and useful even for remote server installs, by mounting the media.

    DRAC 4 cards Dell 2850 are useful as well but with a lot of bugs, some of them work like a charm, some cannot be accessed despite all the software reinstalls and firmware upgrades

    DRAC 3 cards: USELESS and slow to extreme. GUI next to imposible to use, telnet is OK

    DRAC/MC in 1855 blades, very slow as well, Https will time out half times.

    Just our experience,

    Alex

  • Matt

    @Alex

    Thanks for that breakdown. My only experience thus far has been with the 1855 chassis, so I'm heavily biased against :-) I'll keep in mind that not all DRAC units are as bad as my experiences.

    So out of curiosity, how do you get DRAC cards for the other servers? Can you just call Dell and say "I've got a 2850 that I'd like to stick a DRAC in"?

  • Anonymous

    +1 . DRAC is slow .

  • Jon

    I know this is an ancient thread, but I thought I'd add a comment. the DRAC5 is flawless on my 2950's. I can do remote installs from isos on my laptop without a hitch. They're fast and reliable as well. At least with the 2950's and I believe 1950's, there is a DRAC slot to add one.

  • Mike Shoup

    I feel your frustration entirely. We have an 1855 blade system and the DRAC is just god awful slow when it does work.

  • Matt

    Thanks, Mike. It's frustrating for sure, especially when you depend on something so much like you have to with the DRAC

  • Bill

    I just bought a bunch of DRAC5s for my 2950s that run Fedora. Assuming I connect to them via a windows box, the console doesn't look bad, until I startx. It's totally white washed and looks like crap. I've played with the session video settings but no go. Anyone else see anything like that? I've even tried lowering the resolution and amount of colors in x.conf and still looks like crap.

  • http://www.kapcom.com.au/ David Dick

    I can't get in the DRAC Bios setup software, any clues? DELL 2950

  • Marco

    I never had any problem with Dell DRAC cards.
    The latest even have a working plugin for Firefox.
    HP’s iLO cards, on the other hand, are a piece of shit.

    They just don't work, IE8, compatibility mode, Firefox, different java versions, nothing works.
    And you have to buy a license to get the useful features.
    What bullshit is that, you buy a iLO card and then you have to pay more for a license to really be able to use it ?!!!

    But the free functionality it supposed to have doesn't work, so why would I pay if the extra functionality you get then probably doesn't work either?

  • Larry Sabine

    If you're talking about DRAC5 for 2950 and up, unless you are using DDS or something to get to the location, it works like a champ. Sometimes you have to play with your browser settings, but usually not. Over where I used to work we got such good results that they were able to farm out entire Windows deployment to India (note, "used to work") over the DRAC. All you need is a local server to TS to, and a share where your WinPE ISO is saved, and the whole thing happens seamlessly.

  • Liam

    Right, I've been out of the industry a couple of years off living my life somewhere... I just went and bought a Dell R720 for a client and installed it only to find that now apparently I need to buy a license for the DRAC hardware that I've already bought?

    I'm sorry, have I missed some major even where Dell's metaphorically entered its arse and never re-emerged? Perhaps I'm just a caveman now but I can't even work out where to get a license let alone how much it'll set me back.

    Guess I'll just disable the damn thing and sit in the server room for the next few days. Mentally noted: NEVER buy another dell product again.

  • John

    Liam: to my knowledge, only HP iLO cards require an additional license; Dell DRAC cards have no additional charges.

    Remember to upgrade the firmware, though--early firmware revisions for DRAC5 boards, for instance, do not have virtual media support.

  • John

    I lied. iDRAC7 does indeed license out some features, apparently.

    You can find a 30-day evaluation license, apparently, but installing it is apparently an annoying process.

    Looks like iDRAC7 Enterprise is at $400 list, with Dell P/N 91TV3.

    Sorry for failing to read that you were dealing with an R720, which is considerably newer than the thrift-shop-level hardware I'm horsing around with at present.

  • http://thatscrap.com seandawg

    Drac cards suck so bad. When they work, great! but how many hours do you have to waste configuring your own system to work with bad certs, poor java code, locating legacy jRE. Ill never buy a drac for our systems again. Id waste less money outsourcing hot hands to a local guy.

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  • Schosch

    Kann theoretisch jeder, wenn er weiß wies geht.

  • curx

    dell drac card act like "do a little magic" once ok - next time maybe?!

  • Schosch

    moust halt anständig anpflantschn!