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USENIX, The Advanced Computing Systems Association

2006 USENIX Annual Technical Conference Abstract

Pp. 381–386 of the Proceedings

IP Only Server

Muli Ben-Yehuda, Oleg Goldshmidt, Elliot K. Kolodner, Zorik Machulsky, Vadim Makhervaks, Julian Satran, Marc Segal, Leah Shalev, and Ilan Shimony, IBM Haifa Research Laboratory


Present day servers must support a variety of legacy I/O devices and protocols that are rarely used in the day to day server operation, at a significant cost in board layout complexity, reliability, power consumption, heat dissipation, and ease of management. We present a design of an IP Only Server, which has a single, unified I/O interface: IP network. All of the server's I/O is emulated and redirected over IP/Ethernet to a remote management station, except for the hard disks which are accessed via iSCSI. The emulation is done in hardware, and is available from power-on to shutdown, including the pre-OS and post-OS (crash) stages, unlike alternative solutions such as VNC that can only function when the OS is operational. The server's software stack -- the BIOS, the OS, and applications -- will run without any modifications.

We have developed a prototype IP Only Server, based on a COTS FPGA running our embedded I/O emulation firmware. The remote station is a commodity PC running a VNC client for video, keyboard and mouse. Initial performance evaluations with unmodified BIOS and Windows and Linux operating systems indicate negligible network overhead and acceptable user experience. This prototype is the first attempt to create a diskless and headless x86 server that runs unmodified industry standard software (BIOS, OS, and applications).

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Last changed: 15 Sept. 2006 ch