Installing Ubuntu Server 13.04 on an HP DL320e Gen8

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I just had the experience of installing Ubuntu Server 13.04 on a new HP DL320e Gen8 server and it was not as easy as it should have been. It’s kind of pain because Ubuntu is not one of the officially supported operating systems from HP on this server model. So, their “Intelligent Provisioning” is worthless to you. For some crazy reason, Suse Linux is supported but Ubuntu is not. Weird. Anyway, here is what you have to do if you want to get Ubuntu Server going on it.

BIOS Settings

The SATA “fakeRAID” controller from HP that is integrated is not supported, so you will have to run software RAID which you can configure via the Ubuntu Server installerĀ partitioningĀ steps. But, even leaving the setting in the BIOS to have it use the B120i HP RAID controller will mess-up booting into Ubuntu. The Ubuntu OS installer (tried 12.04 and end-up installing 13.04 as it was officially released today) will see the physical drives in the server bays no matter what the BIOS is set to, but the BIOS will have trouble booting after what felt like a successful install. So, you need to go into the BIOS and change the SATA controller setting to “SATA AHCI Support” so you will be able to boot post-install.

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I believe the BIOS ships with the “Dynamic HP Smart Array B120i RAID Support” set as the default. It’s not that smart, so get it out of the way. You will be bombarded with warnings, but you have to do it. I did a bunch of test installs and this worked when all other options around leaving the “smart” setting going failed. You can get into the BIOS with F9.

Software RAID Configuration

I went with two terabyte drives and a simple RAID1 setup. If you set the BIOS SATA controller setting or not, the Ubuntu installer will see the individual physical drives in the bays. You need to not use guided partitioning and switch to manual. On each disk, create a partition map and give each drive the full free space you can without any partitions.

Once each drive has free space and partition maps through manual partitioning, you will get an option to do “Configure Software RAID.” Select it and create your RAID with the drives you have and right changes. Then, go into Configure the Logical Volume Manager” and create volumes on the RAID for root and swap.

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Yes, you can get fancy with more partitions and we all used to back in the day with various ones for /usr, /var, etc. but not really much of a benefit to do anymore. I match my swap size with the amount of RAM I have. In this case, I had a couple of 1TB drives sw mirrored and gave 8GB-ish to the swap space and the rest to root for Linux.

If you do these two major tweaks, you can get around the SATA problem with Ubuntu on the DL320e. If you get through an install and can reboot because it can’t find the volumes, check the BIOS setting and make sure it is on SATA AHCI or it will not find the installed Linux system and sw RAID.

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