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No Boot Image?? It's a Long Way to Tampa

from the Hydra High Council Aug 18th 2020

Years ago, a coworker and I were experimenting with timed access lists on a remote Cisco router and accidentally cut off all access.

It wasn't a production router.

But it was in another city 3 hours away. Our impromptu road trek took 6 hours round-trip. Lesson learned.

Fast forward to 2020. In our lab, we have 4 VX series appliances loaned to us directly from Lenovo. Each node includes two 2GHz Xeon Gold 6138 processors (20 cores each), 256GB RAM, and six SSD drives. The nodes are connected using a Lenovo RackSwitch G8272.

All had ESXi previously installed, but they came from another lab and we did not have the root credentials. Thinking there was chance we would not be able fix this remotely, I brought up Google Maps to see just how long it would take to drive to the data center in Tampa.

12 hours one way. (Trying to avoid plane rides for the moment.) Ugh.


However, we had a shiny new tool in our toolbox: Lenovo XClarity Administrator.

Getting into these hosts was like trying to open a tin can with your bare hands. But lucky for us, XClarity's Swiss Army knife of management goodies included a can opener. With it, we were able to remotely deploy ESXi. No road trip necessary. If you're interested in how you can do it as well, check out our previous blogs.

We applied the same steps to our four hosts, but one was in a state of perpetual reboot and gave this error:

The drive to Tampa was looking inevitable after all.


However, we found that XClarity has a few more tricks up its sleeve. Logging into the XClarity Controller for this host, notice the menu bar across the top.

XClarity provides several ways to mount ISO or IMG files. You can mount a local ISO, mount a remote ISO over the network, or use a standalone tool.

To view the various mounting options, select Media from the menu bar. We had a custom Lenovo ESXi image already downloaded to our local device, so we went with the first choice.


The option to select ISO image is grayed out until you click Activate. If you happen to be using Google Chrome as your browser, you get an additional mounting option: Mount files/folders which lets you drag and drop the image in addition to browsing for it. If there are several cooks in the kitchen simultaneously with multiple remote console sessions into the XClarity Controller, only one of them can activate the image mount.


Use the dropdown to select ISO Image, then click Browse to select the file.


After choosing the image, click Mount all local media.


You then see a green check indicating the ISO is mounted. So far, so good.


A new section will appear in the bottom portion of the window.

Use the left dropdown to select the image. From the right dropdown, choose to manually restart later, restart immediately, or restart normally. Restarting normally will allow the server to gracefully shutdown first. In our case, since our host is continually rebooting, there's no point in saying grace, so we'll choose to Restart server immediately and click OK.


To safeguard against an admin accidentally hitting OK and blowing up a perfectly good server, XClarity requires you to Apply the action.


At this point, we're in and doing a manual ESXi deployment.

It asks where we would like to install the image. We chose the M.2 SSD listed at the top. The other four NVMe drives shown have been set aside for vSAN. Hit Enter after you have made your selection.


Next, select your keyboard layout and hit Enter to continue.


Almost done. Now you'll need to supply a root password. Once they match, hit Enter.


This will bring you to a final confirmation screen. Press the F11 key to initiate the installation.

It worked! Road trip to Tampa cancelled.


The install is complete, but you'll need to remove the ISO before rebooting, so don't hit Enter just yet.


We need to again select the Media icon again on the XClarity Controller.


To the right of the image listed with the green checkmark, click Unmount.


Then click OK to unmount the ISO.


Now for the final sprint. After clicking OK, the window will close and you'll again see the Installation Complete prompt.

Click Enter to reboot and all is well with the world.


As you've seen, the Lenovo XClarity Administrator and XClarity Controller provide some major muscle when it comes to managing your servers. They both gave us different get-out-of-jail-free cards we were very pleasantly surprised to find worked as advertised… And we're just getting started.