Using HP Tools on a ProLiant with ESXi

Are you looking for additional ways of efficiently managing your HP ProLiant servers that have ESXi installed? Read on to learn more about monitoring vSphere hosts and alternatives for managing your HP hardware.

This post is a collection of multiple tools and methods I came across in my career. If you have any feedback or information I should add to this article, please share them with me! This post is based on vSphere ESXi 5.x

Monitoring HP ProLiant servers

If you’re managing HP ProLiant servers running Windows or Linux, you are probably familiar with HP Intelligent Provisioning (previously HP SmartStart). Using this solution, a server will be supplied with the latest firmware and driver levels, next to installing management software to interact directly with iLO, storage controllers and monitor system health. This isn’t possible with ESXi as an operating system, but there are other ways to realize these interactions.

Monitoring system health in a vSphere environment is very important, as many workloads depend on a stable virtualization platform. As mentioned, installing your OS with HP Intelligent Provisioning enables you to maximize visibility of health and your configuration using tools like HP System Management Homepage (SMH). This is a tiny webserver which enables you to drill down into each component of your physical server and see the status of your storage controllers, disks, memory modules, CPU’s, temperatures etcetera. Some of this information is also available through the iLO (integrated Lights-Out) interface, but is less detailed the using the HP SMH. More information about HP System Management, including HP SMH can be found here.

Another tool, meant for centrally managing and monitoring HP ProLiant servers and possible other hardware in your environment, is HP SIM (Systems Insight Manager). In the newer ProLiant generations, it’s possible to monitor your hardware with HP SIM without the need for installing agents inside your OS (agentless monitoring). HP SIM is out-of-scope for this article, but if you would like to know more about the solution, please follow this link.

Vendor-specific ESXi installation media

When installing ESXi on a vendor-based piece of hardware like HP, be sure to always search for custom ISO’s that contain drivers to improve integration between hardware and software. HP published these so-called custom ISO’s for each vSphere release on the VMware website at the same downloads page (but a different tab) as the “vanilla” editions of ESXi.

These customized ISO’s will contain drivers for storage controllers, network interface cards, sensors and other hardware specific components. Monitoring your vSphere environment based on HP ProLiant should definitely use these ISO’s to make sure hardware failures trigger alarms through the vSphere host or your vCenter Server.

Before continue your read, I would like to share this PDF with you (HP VMware Utilities User Guide VMware vSphere 5.5 for September 2013) which contains more information about all the tools I am mentioning here.

Managing iLO

The iLO interface, meant of out-of-band access to your server is usually configured once, right before rolling the server out in production. If something would happen to the network and let’s say you have configured a static IP address, the iLO probably will be unavailable. One method would be rebooting your server and physically connect a keyboard and monitor to change IP settings and possibly login credentials. To save you a trip to the data center, you could use the hponcfg tool. This tool is installed automatically when using the custom HP ISO for ESXi, besides other tools like hpacucli (explained below), hpbootcfg (setup boot configuration).

To use hponcfg, you can connect to a specific ESXi host with SSH and run the hponcfg tool from the /opt/hp/tools/ directory.

The commands you can use differ in each iLO version. The commands for the latest version, which is version 4, are documented here. But before diving into this, be sure to check out the PDF link above (HP VMware Utilities User Guide) which also mentions this tool.

For resetting an iLO without changing settings, see this older article of mine.

Detailed Hardware Export

In my case, I had to find information about memory modules inside an older ProLiant model (G5) without having HP SMH or HP SIM. The way I achieved this, was by using the HP Remote System Management for VMware toolkit, which can be downloaded here.

After installing the toolkit, you can use the following executable and parameters to extract all hardware information about your HP ProLiant running ESXi to a text file. The default installation path would be C:\Program Files (x86)\HP Remote System Management.

hprsmcli.exe -s HOSTNAME -u root -p PASSWORD -o export.txt

Of course replace the hostname, password and optionally the filename to export to. Username root could be replaced as well if you have a different administrator account on your ESXi host. If you require additional documentation about the hprsmcli tool, you can find it here.

Managing an HP SmartArray controller

The tool for managing your HP storage controller is also embedded when installing the custom HP ESXi ISO. This tool is called hpacucli and can be found in the /opt/hp/hpacucli/bin directory. If you’re unable to run the tool, try out the alternative tool in /opt/hp/hpssacli/bin. This depends on running in an interactive sessions or not. There’s no difference in the tool.

Now, what can you do with this tool? Everything! The learning curve is somewhat hard, but with the right documentation and examples you should be fine. The same PDF I mentioned earlier also contains commands for this tool. In my case, I needed to lookup the part number of each hard drive in the controller of each host. This is done by running the following command:

/opt/hp/hpssacli/bin # ./hpssacli ctrl all show config detail

After which, for example, the following output appears. I removed serial number information here:

Smart Array P400 in Slot 1
Bus Interface: PCI
Slot: 1
RAID 6 (ADG) Status: Enabled
Controller Status: OK
Hardware Revision: E
Firmware Version: 7.24
Rebuild Priority: Medium
Expand Priority: Medium
Surface Scan Delay: 15 secs
Surface Scan Mode: Idle
Wait for Cache Room: Disabled
Surface Analysis Inconsistency Notification: Disabled
Post Prompt Timeout: 0 secs
Cache Board Present: True
Cache Status: OK
Cache Ratio: 25% Read / 75% Write
Drive Write Cache: Disabled
Total Cache Size: 256 MB
Total Cache Memory Available: 208 MB
No-Battery Write Cache: Disabled
Cache Backup Power Source: Batteries
Battery/Capacitor Count: 1
Battery/Capacitor Status: OK
SATA NCQ Supported: True
Number of Ports: 2 Internal only
Driver Name: cciss
Driver Version: 3.6.1
Driver Supports HP SSD Smart Path: False

Array: A
Interface Type: SAS
Unused Space: 0 MB
Status: OK
Array Type: Data

Logical Drive: 1
Size: 273.4 GB
Fault Tolerance: 5
Heads: 255
Sectors Per Track: 32
Cylinders: 65535
Strip Size: 64 KB
Full Stripe Size: 128 KB
Status: OK
Caching: Enabled
Parity Initialization Status: Initialization Completed
Disk Name: /dev/cciss-c0d0
Mount Points: None
Drive Type: Data
LD Acceleration Method: Controller Cache

physicaldrive 2I:1:1
Port: 2I
Box: 1
Bay: 1
Status: OK
Drive Type: Data Drive
Interface Type: SAS
Size: 146 GB
Native Block Size: 512
Rotational Speed: 10000
Firmware Revision: HPDC
Model: HP DG146BB976
Current Temperature (C): 36
Maximum Temperature (C): 45
PHY Count: 2
PHY Transfer Rate: Unknown, Unknown

Something I learned, which could help you, is the PHY indicator. A count of PHY Count: 1 means a single-port drive, and a PHY Count: 2 means a dual-port drive.

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