Building your Power Systems server without data center access

Say goodbye to installation media

You can configure your brand new IBM Power Systems server without getting up from your seat. Learn how to build your virtual I/O server, a network installation manager server, and your AIX partitions remotely.


Anthony English (, Senior AIX Specialist, Freelance contractor

Anthony EnglishAnthony English is a freelance contractor in Sydney, Australia. He has worked on AIX systems since 1991 and writes the IBM developerWorks blog, AIX Down Under. He is also recognized as an IBM Champion for Power Systems. You can reach Anthony at Follow Anthony English on Twitter.

14 June 2011

Also available in Chinese

Virtual access to the data center

Getting physical access to servers is becoming increasingly difficult. Systems are often located in lights-out data centers in remote locations. And even if you do get to the unmarked building that hosts your machines, security is getting tighter. In practice, installing your system remotely is usually a better option. Standing at a console in a chilly data center with systems that beep and whirr as your only company is a luxury you can do without.

Frequently used acronyms

  • GUI: Graphical user interface
  • ISO: International Organization for Standardization
  • LPAR: Logical partition
  • NFS: Network file system
  • SSH: Secure shell

In this article, you learn how to build an IBM® Power Systems™ server remotely. The procedure assumes that your server will be managed by a hardware management console (HMC) that allows you to install and configure LPARs. The article covers the high-level steps involved and provides links to many resources to help you with more detailed documentation (see Resources).

Hardware installation

So far, no one has worked out how a new server can be racked up and cabled without anyone actually being there. No getting around it—someone has to install the hardware. If you're lucky, this will be somebody else's problem.

Assume that somebody else (like, the hardware person) has verified power and cooling requirements, racked up your server, and cabled it to the network and your storage subsystem. The HMC has been turned on and is on the network. (To learn how that's done, see Resources section.)

Remote access via the HMC

At this point, you're almost ready to take over the installation by remote control. First, however, the hardware person needs to set some simple menu options on the HMC. He or she begins by logging in to the HMC as a user with hmcsuperadmin rights, such as hscroot. From there, he or she steps through the HMC Management menus to enable the following remote-access capabilities:

  • Browser access via the HMC:
    • Select Manage User Profiles and Access.
    • Select a user who has hmcsuperadmin permissions.
    • Select User.
    • Select Modify/View User.
    • Select User Properties.
    • Select Allow remote access via the web.
  • HMC Remote command execution via SSH:
    • Select Remote Command execution.
    • Select Enable remote command execution using the ssh facility.
  • Console sessions on LPARs:
    • Select Remote Virtual Terminal.
    • Select Enable remote virtual terminal connections.
  • HMC remote operation:
    • Set Remote Operation to Enabled.

Download and deliver

If storing, copying, and even finding your IBM AIX® installation media is a pain point for you, how's this for good news? IBM now delivers your AIX and IBM i software electronically. That means you can download your AIX and virtual I/O (VIO) server installation images in ISO format and use them to build your system without the need for physical media.

If you have an IBM Software Maintenance Agreement (SWMA) or Software Subscription contract, you can download your AIX and VIO server installation images by connecting to IBM Entitled Software Support (ESS; see Resources for links).

Back at your desk, far away from the data center, you should now be able to fire up a supported browser and log in to the HMC as hscroot (or an equivalent user). At this point, you're ready to add a managed system and power on that server, if those tasks haven't already been performed. You can do this through the HMC (see Resources).

VIO server first, then NIM

Okay, so now you've got a brand-new server. It's powered on and begging to be put to work. Where to from here?

If you've been working on AIX for a while, you might be thinking of using network installation manager (NIM) to install your AIX LPARs. But to do that, you need a NIM server, which you may not have if it's a green-field site. You could always build your NIM server by inserting the AIX installation media, but that may not be an option for you—the data center may be on another continent and in a different time zone. There's no one there to insert DVDs for you. So, how do you proceed?

In my view, the smartest way to build a Power System server remotely is to install a VIO server, first. You can do that without physical media if you download the VIO server installation file from IBM ESS (see Resources for details). This file should reside on an NFS server that is accessible from the HMC.

When your VIO server installation image is available, you can create a VIO server partition using the HMC GUI (see Resources). Then, you can connect to the HMC command line using SSH. The HMC installios command allows you to install the VIO server by means of an NFS mount. You can run the installios command interactively, stepping through a series of questions regarding the network setup of the VIO server. Listing 1 provides an example. The location of the NFS-mounted installation image appears in bold.

Listing 1. installios example
The following objects of type "managed system" were found.  
Please select one:

1. Server-8233-E8B-SN100273P

Enter a number (1): 1

The following objects of type "virtual I/O server partition" were found.  
Please select one:

1. VIO_1
2. VIO_2

Enter a number (1-2): 1

The following objects of type "profile" were found.  Please select one:

1. Default

Enter a number: 1
Enter the source of the installation images [/dev/cdrom]: nfs01:/Virtual_IO_Server.iso
Enter the client's intended IP address:
Enter the client's intended subnet mask:
Enter the client's gateway:
Enter the client's speed [100]: 1000
Enter the client's duplex [full]: full
Would you like to configure the client's network after the
        installation [yes]/no? yes

Create a virtual media library

When you've got a VIO server, you can create a virtual media library that lets you store images in ISO format, so that they can then be made available to the VIO clients. By loading the AIX installation image into the virtual media library, you can boot and install your first AIX LPAR. Once that's done you can configure this LPAR as your NIM server.

Note: You can create the virtual media library via the HMC GUI or on the VIO server's command line using the mkrep command.

Build AIX from the virtual media library

Now it's time to install your first AIX partition. Download the AIX installation image (if you haven't already), and copy it to the virtual media library. You use this image to boot and install your first LPAR. This LPAR will be your NIM server, which you can use for installing your other LPARs.

Next, create the LPAR on the HMC (see Resources). As this is your NIM server, ensure that it has sufficient resources—in particular, disk space.

You can assign a virtual optical drive to the LPAR via the HMC (see Resources) or on the VIO server's command line. Load the AIX installation image onto the virtual optical drive and use it to boot and install AIX. As the installation image is on a file-backed device on disk, you'll be surprised how quickly and easily the installation can be done. The documentation on installing AIX (see Resources) steps you through the multitude of options for installing, migrating, and configuring your AIX LPARs.

Build a NIM server

After you've finished building the first LPAR, you can configure it as a NIM server (see Resources for details). NIM provides an environment for installing and managing AIX LPARs over the network: You can use NIM to build and back up your AIX LPARs and VIO servers. The Redbook NIM from A to Z (see Resources for a link) provides some easy steps for building a NIM environment and includes best practices and a helpful plan for building an AIX standard operating environment.


When it comes to installing your other AIX LPARs, you can build them using NIM. A wealth of information is available on installing and booting with NIM (see Resources for links). If you need to create other NIM resources that are not available in the AIX installation image, you can use the virtual media library to do it. In fact, you could use the library to build all your AIX LPARs, if you wanted to. The virtual media library has been called the smart man's NIM: It's easy to learn and works well for the installation of software in a virtualized environment. It's also a quick way of cloning AIX images that have been backed up using the mkdvd command.

Many more configuration options are available once the basic LPARs are built. You might need to install new packages that you have downloaded or update AIX with the latest fix pack. If you use the mkdvd command to convert the software to ISO format files, you can copy them onto the virtual media library. You should be able to do all of this from your desk, even if the server is in another hemisphere.

Remote installation road map

It may be a bit daunting thinking about building a system you'll never get to meet in person, but it makes a lot of sense and saves a great deal of time. It also avoids unnecessary travel and eliminates the need for ordering and storing physical media. Now that you've seen the steps involved, stand back and have a look at the view. Here's a road map of where you've been on remote control tours:

  1. Install the hardware.
  2. Configure the HMC for remote access.
  3. Discover the managed system.
  4. Power it on.
  5. Create a VIO server:
    1. Download VIO server and AIX installation media to an NFS server.
    2. Create a VIO LPAR profile.
    3. Install the VIO server from the HMC command line.
    4. Configure the VIO server.
    5. Create the VIO virtual media library.
    6. Copy the AIX installation image to your VIO server.
  6. Create the NIM server LPAR:
    1. Boot from the AIX installation image in the virtual media library.
    2. Configure the LPAR as a NIM server.
  7. Create other AIX LPARs using NIM or the VIO virtual media library.
  8. Take a bow.

From the comfort of your desk

With the HMC, the VIO server, and NIM, the days of gathering a bunch of DVDs or CDs, donning your winter woollies, and heading for the data center are behind you. These days, you really can install and manage your IBM Power System server without ever seeing it.



Get products and technologies

  • You can download the AIX, VIO server, and IBM i installation ISO images from Entitled Software Support. You'll need to prove that you're entitled by providing your IBM Customer number, your machine type and serial number, and SWMA. Log in with your IBM ID and click the Software Downloads link.



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