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Post originally from 2010, updated  2016.06.20. IPMI seems to be an endless source of “entertainment”…

Original post: http://lokna.no/?p=409

Problem

imageThe system event log is overflowing with EventID 1004 from IPMIDRV. “The IPMI device driver attempted to communicate with the IPMI BMC device during normal operation. However the operation failed due to a timeout.”

The frequency may vary from a couple of messages per day upwards to several messages per minute.

Analysis

The BMC (Baseboard Management Controller) is a component found on most server motherboards. It is a microcontroller responsible for communication between the motherboard and management software. See wikipedia for more information. The BMC is also used for communication between the motherboard and dedicated out of band management boards such as Dell iDRAC. I have seen these error messages on systems from several suppliers, most notably on IBM and Dell blade servers, but most server motherboards have a BMC. As the error message states, you can resolve this error by increasing the timeout, and this is usually sufficient. I have found that the Windows default settings for the timeouts may cause conflicts, especially on blade servers. Thus an increase in the timeout values may be in order as described on technet. Lately though, I have found this error to be a symptom of more serious problems. To understand this, we have to look at what is actually happening. If you have some kind of monitoring agent running on the server, such as SCOM or similar, the error could be triggered by said agent trying to read the current voltage levels on the motherboard. If such operations fail routinely during the day, it is a sign of a conflict. This could be competing monitoring agents querying data to frequently, an issue with the BMC itself, or an issue with the out of band management controller. In my experience, this issue is more frequent on blade servers than rack-based servers. This makes sense, as most blade servers have a local out of band controller that is continuously talking to a chassis management controller to provide a central overview of the chassis.

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Post originally from 2010, updated 2014.04.04 and superseded by EventID 1004 from IPMIDRV v2 in 2016

Problem

imageThe system event log is overflowing with EventID 1004 from IPMIDRV. “The IPMI device driver attempted to communicate with the IPMI BMC device during normal operation. However the operation failed due to a timeout.”

The frequency may vary from a couple of messages per day upwards to several messages per minute.

Analysis

The BMC (Baseboard Management Controller) is a component found on most server motherboards. It is a microcontroller responsible for communication between the motherboard and management software. See wikipedia for more information. The BMC is also used for communication between the motherboard and dedicated out of band management boards such as Dell iDRAC. I have seen these error messages on systems from several suppliers, most notably on IBM and Dell blade servers, but most server motherboards have a BMC. As the error message states, you can resolve this error by increasing the timeout, and this is usually sufficient. I have found that the Windows default settings for the timeouts may cause conflicts, especially on blade servers. Thus an increase in the timeout values may be in order as described on technet. Lately though, I have found this error to be a symptom of more serious problems. To understand this, we have to look at what is actually happening. If you have some kind of monitoring agent running on the server, such as SCOM or similar, the error could be triggered by said agent trying to read the current voltage levels on the motherboard. If such operations fail routinely during the day, it is a sign of a conflict. This could be competing monitoring agents querying data to frequently, an issue with the BMC itself, or an issue with the out of band management controller. In my experience, this issue is more frequent on blade servers than rack-based servers. This makes sense, as most blade servers have a local out of band controller that is continuously talking to a chassis management controller to provide a central overview of the chassis.

If the out of band controllers have a problem, this can and will affect the BMC, which in turn may affect the motherboard. Monitoring of server status is the most frequently used feature, but the BMC controller is also used for remote power control and is able to affect the state of internal components on the motherboard. We recently had an issue on a Dell M820 blade server where a memory leak in iDrac resulted in the mezzanine slots on the server being intermittently switched off. In this case it was the FibreChannel HBA. Further research revealed this to be a returning issue. This forum thread from 2011 describes a similar issue: http://en.community.dell.com/techcenter/blades/f/4436/t/19415896.aspx.

As the iDrac versions in question are different (1.5.3 in 2010 and 1.51.51 in 2014), I theorize that the issue is related to iDrac memory leaks in general and not a specific bug. Thus, any iDrac firmware bug resulting in a memory leak may cause these issues.

Solution

Low error frequency

Increase the timeout values as described on technet. I have used the following values with success on IBM servers:

image

Under HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\IPMI are four values controlling the IPMI driver: BusyWaitTimeoutPeriod, BusyWaitPeriod, IpmbWaitTimeoutPeriod, CommandWaitTimeoutPeriod, and SlaveAddressDetectionMethod. On IBM blades, I have used BusyWaitPeriod 60(desimal) and 9 000 000 (desimal) for the rest. Changing these settings require a restart of the server.

High error frequency

Further analysis will be necessary for each case. Try to identify what program is triggering the timeouts. A blanket upgrade of Bios, Out of band Management and system drivers may be successful, but it could also introduce new problems and thus further complicate the troubleshooting. Looking for other, seemingly unrelated problems in the event log could also be a good idea. And check for other servers with similar problems. I have found that removing the server from the chassis and reseating it may remove the fault for a couple of days before it returns. This is a symptom of a memory leak. And talking about memory leaks, check for kernel mode driver memory leaks in the operating system.

If it is a dell server, try running the following command:

racadm getsysinfo

image

If the result is ERROR: Unable to perform the requested operation, something is seriously wrong with the out of band controller. Get in touch with Dell support for further help. You will need a new version of the iDrac firmware without the memory leak, or an older version and a downgrade.

If the command is successful, it should return a lot of information about the server:

image

A successful result points to an issue with monitoring software or drivers. Or maybe you just need to increase the timeouts in the registry.

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Problem

While troubleshooting a networking teaming issue on a cluster, someone sent me the a link to this article about multiple default gateways on Win 2012 native teaming: http://www.concurrency.com/blog/bug-in-nic-teaming-wizard-makes-duplicate-default-routes-in-server-2012/. The post discusses a pretty specific scenario that we didn’t have on our clusters (most of them are on 2008R2), but I discovered several nodes with more than one default route in route print:

image

The issue I was looking into was another, but I remembered a problem from a weekend some months ago that might be related: When a failover was triggered on a SQL cluster, the cluster lost communication with the outside world. To be specific: no traffic passed through the default gateway. As all cluster nodes were on the same subnet the cluster itself was content with the situation, but none of the webservers were able to communicate with the clustered SQL server as they were in a different subnet. This made the webservers sad and the webmaster angry, so we had to fix it. As this happened in production over the weekend, the focus was on a quick fix and we were unable to find a root cause at the time. A reboot of the cluster nodes did the trick, and we just wrote it off as fallout from the storage issue that triggered the failover. The discovery of multiple default gateways on the other hand prompted a more thorough investigation.

Analysis

The article mentioned above talks exclusively about Windows 2012’s native teaming software, but this cluster is running Windows 2008 R2 and is relying on teaming software provided by the NIC manufacturer (Qlogic). We have had quite a lot of problems with the Qlogic network adapters on this cluster, so I immediately suspected them to be the rotten apple. I am not sure if this problem is caused by a bug in Windows itself that is present in both 2012 and 2008R2, or if both MS and Qlogic are unable to produce a functioning NIC teaming driver, but the following is clear:

If your adapters have a default gateway when you add them to a team, there is a chance that this default gateway will not get removed from the system. This happens regardless if the operating system is Windows 2012 or Windows 2008 R2. I am not sure if gateway addresses configured by DHCP also triggers this behavior. It doesn’t happen every time, and I have yet to figure out if there are any specific triggers as I haven’t been able to reproduce the problem at will.

Solution A

To resolve this issue, follow the recommendations in  http://www.concurrency.com/blog/bug-in-nic-teaming-wizard-makes-duplicate-default-routes-in-server-2012/:

First you have to issue a command to delete all static routes to 0.0.0.0. NB! This will disconnect you from the server if you are connected remotely from outside the subnet.

image

Configure the default gateway for the team using IP properties on the virtual team adapter:

image

Do a route print to make sure you have only one default gateway under persistent routes.

Solution b

If solution A doesn’t work, issue a netsh interface ip reset command to reset the ip configuration and reboot the server. Be prepared to re-enter the ip information for all adapters if necessary.

What not to do

Do not configure the default gateway using route add, as this will result in a static route. If the computer is a node in a cluster, the gateway will be disabled at failover and isolate the server on the local subnet. See http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2161341 for information about how to configure static routes on clusters if you absolutely have to use a static route.

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From time to time, the good people at Microsoft publish a list of problems with failover clustering that has been resolved. This list, as all such bad/good news comes in the form of a KB, namely KB2784261. I check this list from time to time. Some of them relate to a specific issue, while others are more of the go-install-them-at-once type. As a general rule, I recommend installing ALL hotfixes regardless of the attached warning telling you to only install them if you experience a particular problem. In my experience, hotfixes are at least as stable as regular patches, if not better. That being said, sooner or later you will run across patches or hotfixes that will make a mess and give you a bad or very bad day. But then again, that is why cluster admins always fight for funding of a proper QA/T environment. Preferably one that is equal to the production system in every way possible.

Anyways, this results in having to check all my servers to see if they have the hotfixes installed. Luckily some are included in Microsoft Update, but some you have to install manually. To simplify this process, I made the following powershell script. It takes a list of hotfixes, and returns a list of the ones who are missing from the system. This script could easily be adapted to run against several servers at once, but I have to battle way to many internal firewalls to attempt such dark magic. Be aware that some hotfixes have multiple KB numbers and may not show up even if they are installed. This usually happens when updates are bundled together as a cummulative package or superseded by a new version. The best way to test if patch/hotfix X needs to be installed is to try to install it. The installer will tell you whether or not the patch is applicable.

Edit: Since the original, I have added KB lists for 2008 R2 and 2012 R2 based clusters. All you have to do is replace the ” $recommendedPatches = ” list with the one you need. Links to the correct KB list is included for each OS. I have also discovered that some of the hotfixes are available through Microsoft Update-Catalog, thus bypassing the captcha email hurdle.

2012 version

$menucolor = [System.ConsoleColor]::gray
write-host "╔═══════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════╗"-ForegroundColor $menucolor
write-host "║                              Identify missing patches                                     ║"-ForegroundColor $menucolor
write-host "║                              Jan Kåre Lokna - lokna.no                                    ║"-ForegroundColor $menucolor
write-host "║                                       v 1.2                                               ║"-ForegroundColor $menucolor
write-host "║                                  Requires elevation: No                                   ║"-ForegroundColor $menucolor
write-host "╚═══════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════════╝"-ForegroundColor $menucolor
#List your patches here. Updated list of patches at http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2784261
$recommendedPatches = "KB2916993", "KB2929869","KB2913695", "KB2878635", "KB2894464", "KB2838043", "KB2803748", "KB2770917"
 
$missingPatches = @()
foreach($_ in $recommendedPatches){
    if (!(get-hotfix -id $_ -ea:0)) { 
        $missingPatches += $_ 
    }    
}
$intMissing = $missingPatches.Count
$intRecommended = $recommendedpatches.count
Write-Host "$env:COMPUTERNAME is missing $intMissing of $intRecommended patches:" 
$missingPatches

2008R2 Version

A list of recommended patches for Win 2008 R2 can be found here:  KB2545685

$recommendedPatches = "KB2531907", "KB2550886","KB2552040", "KB2494162", "KB2524478", "KB2520235"

2012 R2 Version

A list of recommended patches for Win 2012 R2 can be found here:  KB2920151

#All clusters
$recommendedPatches = "KB3130944", "KB3137691", "KB3139896", "KB3130939", "KB3123538", "KB3091057", "KB3013769", "KB3000850", "KB2919355"
#Hyper-V Clusters
$recommendedPatches = "KB3130944", "KB3137691", "KB3139896", "KB3130939", "KB3123538", "KB3091057", "KB3013769", "KB3000850", "KB2919355", "KB3090343", "KB3060678", "KB3063283", "KB3072380"

Hyper-V

If you are using the Hyper-V role, you can find additional fixes for 2012 R2 in KB2920151 below the general cluster hotfixes. If you use NVGRE, look at this list as well: KB2974503

Sample output (computer name redacted)

SNAGHTML2af111ec

Edit:

I have finally updated my script to remove those pesky red error messages seen in the sample above.

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I have had several issues in the past year involving kernel memory leaks, so I decided to make a separate blog post about general kernel memory leak analysis. In this post I mostly use the amazing Sysinternals tools for troubleshooting. You also need Poolmon.exe, a small utility currently part of the Windows Driver Kit. Sadly, this 35k self contained .exe is not available as a separate download, you have to download and install the entire 500+MiB WDK somewhere to extract it. You only have to do this once though, as there is no need to install the WDK on every system you analyze. You can just copy the executable from the machine where you installed the WDK.

Problem

Something is causing the kernel paged or non paged pools to rise uncontrollably. Screenshot from Process Explorer’s System Information dialog:

image

In this sample, the non paged pool has grown to an unhealthy 2,2GB, and continues to grow. Even though the pool limit is 128GIB and the server has a whopping  256GIB of RAM, the kernel memory pools are usually way below the 1GiB mark. You should of course baseline this to make sure you actually have an issue, but generally speaking, every time I find a Kernel memory value above 1GiB I go hunting for the cause.

Note: To show the pool limits, you have to enable symbols in Process Explorer. Scott Hanselman has blogged about that here: http://www.hanselman.com/blog/SetUpYourSystemToUseMicrosoftsPublicSymbolServer.aspx

Analysis

Kernel leaks are usually caused by a driver. Kernel leaks in the OS itself are very rare, unless you are running some sort of beta version of Windows. To investigate further, you have to fire up poolmon.exe.

image

Poolmon has a lot of shortcuts. From KB177415:

P – Sorts tag list by Paged, Non-Paged, or mixed. Note that P cycles through each one.
B – Sorts tags by max byte usage.
M – Sorts tags by max byte allocation.
T – Sort tags alphabetically by tag name.
E – Display Paged, Non-paged total across bottom. Cycles through.
A – Sorts tags by allocation size.
F – Sorts tags by “frees”.
S – Sorts tags by the differences of allocs and frees.
E – Display Paged, Non-paged total across bottom. Cycles through.
Q – Quit.

The important ones are “P”, to view either paged or non-paged pool tags, and “B”, to list the ones using the most of it at the top. The same view as above, after pressing “P” and “B”:

image

The “Cont” tag relates to “Contiguous physical memory allocations for device drivers”, and is usually the largest tag on a normal system.

And this screenshot is from the server with the non-paged leak:

image

As you can see, the LkaL tag is using more than 1GiB on its own, accounting for half of the pool. we have identified the pool tag, now we have to look for the driver that owns it. To do that, I use one of two methods:

1: Do an internet search for the pool tag.

http://blogs.technet.com/b/yongrhee/archive/2009/06/24/pool-tag-list.aspx contains a large list of tags.

2: Use Sysinternals strings together with findstr.

Most kernel mode drivers are located in “%systemroot%\System32\drivers”. First you have to start an elevated command prompt.  Make sure the Sysinternals suite is installed somewhere on the path, and enter the following commands:

  • cd “%systemroot%\System32\drivers”
  • strings * | findstr [tag]

Example:

image

Hopefully, you should now have the name of the offending driver. To gather more intel about it, use Sysinternals sigcheck:

image

In this case, the offending driver is part of Diskeeper.

Solution

You have to contact the manufacturer of the offending driver and check for an updated version. In the example, I got a version of Diskeeper without the offending driver, but a good place to start is the manufacturers website. And remember, if you already have the newest version, you can always try downgrading to a previous version. If you present your findings as detailed above, most vendors are very interested in identifying the cause of the leak and will work with you to resolve the issue.

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Problem

For some reason, the OS deploy fails and afterwards this message appears at boot: “Lifecycle Controller update required”. Manual install of OS and subsequent Lifecycle controller firmware update doesn’t help. Any attempt to enter the Lifecycle Controller results in the system ignoring your request and booting normally.

image

Solution

  • First, you press F2 to enter system setup
  • Then, go looking for the iDrac settings menu
  • Enter it, and browse down to the Lifecycle Controller option
    image
  • Select Yes for the Cancel Lifecycle Controller Actions option.
    image
  • Finish, save settings and reboot.

If this doesn’t solve the problem, there is a Lifecycle Controller Repair Package available for download over at the Dell support site. I have yet to figure out how that thing works though, as the release notes are not available for download at the moment. I would suggest opening a support ticket if you have to go down this route.

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Problem

A couple of times each minute, the WMI Performance Adapter Service is started and stopped, resulting in an informational message in the system event log (event 7036 from System Control Manager to be exact). This not only fills the log, but also causes pressure on the system due to the constant starting and stopping of the service. I have yet to see this issue on Win2008R2, but I have read reports from others: http://serverfault.com/questions/108829/why-is-my-system-event-log-full-of-wmi-performance-adapter-messages. Most of my Win 2012 servers exhibit the issue, but for some reason my 2008R2 servers have been spared.

image

Analysis

The root cause of this is usually SCOM, Splunk or similar agents who are collecting performance data from the server. The issue is not a problem per se, it is just a result of the fact that the monitoring agents are running a WMI query now and then. The problem is with log readability, it can mask other errors and let them slide out of the event log “window”, that is the amount of data the event log is allowed to contain at any point in time. I had a 20MiB max log size on one server, and it was only able to hold log data for about four days.

image

Solution

The solution is quite simple, you just have to set the startup type for the WMI Performance Adapter Service to Automatic:

image

Thus, you ensure that the service is kept running instead of restarting every 5 seconds. I have yet to see any adverse effects of this so far, but all the servers I have tested this on are physical database servers with tons of resources. The Wmi Performance Adapter service (wmiapsrv.exe) is only using about 7MB of ram on my servers. The Wmi provider host, that is also heavily utilized by SCOM/SPLUNK, is much more of a resource hog:

image

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NOTE: this post was originally from 2010, it was updated for win2012 in august 2013.

If you want to read the cluster log on Windows 2008/2012 failover clusters, you have to generate it first. This log is considered sort of a debug level log, so it is not written to disk in a readable format by default. The log is however stored on disk as a circular .etl file, and it can be written out to a readable cluster.log file on demand. There are two ways you can create this file, by using cluster.exe or by PowerShell. Windows 2008/2008R2 supports both, while Windows 2003 is so old that it only supports the .log text file format and thus creates a readable log by default. Windows 2012 on the other hand considers cluster.exe to be too “old-school”, so it supports PowerShell only.

Be aware that readable might be an undeserving description of the cluster.log file. It is not for the faint of heart, and it should NOT be your first entry point when troubleshooting cluster issues. I usually access it only as a last resort when all else fails, or when I try to decipher why the cluster had issues AFTER I have solved the problem at hand.

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Problem

I’ve been managing a lot of Dell servers lately, where the baseline showed very poor performance for local drives connected to PERC (PowerEdge Expandable RAID Controller) controllers. Poor enough to trigger negative marks on a MSSQL RAP. Typically, read and write latency would never get below 11ms, even with next to no load on a freshly reinstalled server. Even the cheapest laptops with 4500 RPM SATA drives would outperform such stats, and these servers had 10 or 15K RPM SAS drives on a 6Gbps bus. We have a combination of H200, H700 and H710 PERC controllers on these servers, and the issues didn’t seem to follow a pattern, with one exception: all H200 equipped servers experienced poor performance.

Analysis

A support ticket with Dell gave the usual response: update your firmware and drivers. We did, and one of the H700 equipped servers got worse. Further inquiries with Dell gave a recommendation to replace the H200 controllers with the more powerful H700. After having a look at the specs for the H200 I fully agree with their assessment, although I do wonder why on earth they sold them in the first place. The H200 doesn’t appear to be worth the price of the cardboard box it is delivered in. It has absolutely no cache whatsoever, and it also disables the built in cache on the drives. Snap from the H200 users guide:

image

This sounds like something one would use in a print server or small departmental file server in a very limited budget, not in a four-way database cluster node. And it explains why the connected drives are painfully slow, you are reduced to platter speed.

Note: The H200 is replaced by the H310 on newer servers. I have yet to test it, but from what the specs tell me it is just as bad as the H200.

Update: Test data from a H310 equipped test server doing nothing but displaying the perfmon curve:

SNAGHTMLf6bef00

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Problem

Failover Cluster validation fails with the following error: “Failed to prepare storage for testing on node X status 87”:

SNAGHTML314451ca

Analysis

This error was caused by how the operating system was installed on the server. For some reason there was a separate hidden boot partition with no name:

SNAGHTML3145d2ac

I suspect that this is the remains of a Dell OEM installation CD, as there is also an OEM partition on the drive. I didn’t install the OS on this server though, so I was unable to figure out exactly what had happened.

Solution

The solution is simple enough, just assign a drive letter to the boot partition:

image

You could also reinstall the node or create a valid boot loader on the C: drive, but just assigning a drive letter to the partition is way quicker.

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