Thursday, January 22, 2009

The idiot's guide to (re-)installing SIM on Windows and making it actually work

My colleague and I have been busy in the last few days doing a complete re-install of SIM and RSP since we were running into problems with our server that would be tough to explain. To make a long story short, we decided that a fresh reinstall would fix things, and it looks like it did. Why are we running on Windows and not on HP-UX? Basically because 1) SIM was initially installed on Windows in our shop, 2) RSP only works on Windows and 3) My colleague is a Windows guy. :)

Here are my 10 suggestions if you want to do this. This might seem stupid for a Windows admin but I'm an HP-UX guy, remember.

1. Have a good backup
First of all, we made sure we had a good backup of the SIM database. HP has a whitepaper on the subject. But it says what to backup, but not necessarily how to back it up automatically. This was my first MS-SQL experience, and I ended up writing a custom script to back it up. I run it each day to dump the database, so that it can be backed up consistently.

2. Before reinstalling, confirm first that your data can be restored
Which I did by setting up a dummy VM running Windows, and restored data to a dummy SIM. It worked.

3. Use the Smart Start CD to Install Windows Server
I'm always sceptical of software that's self-labeled as "smart" and thought that we could just install a vanilla Windows server, then add all appropriate drivers and stuff... waste of time. Smart Start does all of this for you, and can install Windows from a CIFS-accessible .iso file.

4. Don't use a localized Windows and other software
Use a plain, honest-to-goodness U.S English version of Windows. If and when you run into problems, google will be a much better friend if you paste it error messages that are in english. If your company has a policy of installing software in a localized language, screw 'em.

5. Use the defaults to install *EVERYTHING*
Even if you don't like the defaults, at least they will work. We ran into a few bugs, especially with the database, and ended up thinking "if we were the QA guys at HP, how would we set up our server?" Chances are the answer to this is using the defaults! So don't try to tweak install optons, whether in SIM, RSP or MSSQL, unless you really know what you're doing. We didn't.

6. Don't run the software in your own account
Have it run with a generic account. If you use your personal account, SIM and MSSQL will work, but expect problems when your account gets deleted once you a) quit your job or b) get fired. Of course doing this is a good way to leave a time bomb at work in the case of b).

7. Update your server with Windows update between each software install
You'll probably end up going there 3-4 times

8. Run the SIM installer on the console
No need to use the iLO, you can type "mstsc /console" to do a terminal session. If you don't use the console, the RSP installer could fail miserably. Trust me.

9. Be patient when RSP is installing
It often asks you to wait "a few minutes" but experience here has shown me that it should rather be "a few hours" since it's downloading in the background a lot of software. Looks like the development team at HP tested this only on their gigabit network. In the real world, downloading hundreds of megabytes of bloated data through the internet can actually take quite some time.

10. Be prepared to reinstall everything, even Windows, if it doesn't work
There's an expression in French, un mal pour un bien, which means a bad thing for a good thing. We had problems with MSSQL which would have been impossible to fix cleanly, and decided that reinstalling Windows would be actually quicker than trying to make it work. It's not that bad, since by reinstalling Windows, yours truly actually took notes this time, and is sharing them with you!

Good luck

2 comments:

readjoe said...

Thanks for the post. Is this the same Windows CMS where you run the SIM plug-ins for VSE Management, such as HPVM Manager or SG Manager or WLM and you had to reconfigure all these after re-installing? Or do you use the command-line exclusively for VSE management (hpvmstop, etc.) Do you recommend having one Windows CMS for RSP and another CMS possibly on HP-UX for the VSE tools if you happen to use these?

--Joe

Olivier S. Masse said...

readjoe,

I'm mostly interested in SIM for its support contract database, event reporting, as well
as RSP. Since the latter only supports Windows, I don't have a much of a choice.

As for actually administering HP-UX systems, especially VSE, I think that the WBEM-based management framework has not yet been proven to be reliable enough when compared to CLIs and from what I've seen in a few conferences, many administrators tend to agree with me on this.

I never tried SIM on HP-UX but I saw that there are some HP-UX specific management tools that do not work on Windows. So if you're looking into managing your HP-UX servers, that's the way to go for the time being. I can only suggest that you do not configure any auto-discovery, and add manually your servers in it. You'll end up with a lean'n'mean database.

Currently we have one and only SIM server, and it scans all our subnets to discover everything from Printers to SAN switches, and from PC to Integrity servers. That's a lot of data. But it was deemed as a logical solution for us when compared to running multiple SIM servers. Time will tell if it was a good idea.

Good luck