How to setup linux on a Proliant DL385 G1

The DL385 G1 is one of the first dual-processor dual-core rack servers shipped by HP around 2006. Equipped with Opterons 260 to 285 they are reasonably powerful beasts. Refurbished machines go for about $150 at ebay –  this includes the legendary HP SmartArray RAID controller and 10k rpm UltraSCSI disks, dual GiGE ports, Integrated Lights Out (an embedded tcp/ip server for offline diagnostics)  –  probably the cheapest quad core machine your money can buy, great for your home lab. Power consumption measured at ~300 watts on a multi-threaded test pegging all the CPUs for > 15 minutes. (However, the eight internal fans were running at a mere 20% when I measured this.)

The install can be a hassle because your machine probably will not have an optical drive, doesn’t have enough on-board video ram for recent e.g. Ubuntu 11 installs screens to handle, and since this hardware has been spinning in a datacenter for 6 years something might be broken.  Hopefully these notes will save you some time.


1.Workaround for low video ram for install: you can run the centos6 installer in text mode (with some loss of install features) by dropping to the boot: prompt and pass the ‘text’ parameter to the installer kernel as described here.

2.The cciss driver has been part of the stock linux kernel since at least 2.4 (e.g. see 2.4.3 block drivers). Newer HP raid controllers use the hpsa driver that are in the kernel since 2.6.33.

Get CentOS 5.7 iso images – all 8 (Do not get the latest CentOS)
Get unetbootin from sourceforge

Get the firmware CD iso from the HP Insight Foundation website
Get the smartstart CD iso from the HP Insight Foundation website // note: get v 8.40 for your G1

  • Update the firmware

Use unbootin to write the firmware iso to the usb drive
Boot with this, update everything.

  • Check if your hardware is okay

Use unetbootin to create a bootable usb out of the smartstart iso
Run all the diagnostic tests, and make sure all the tests pass.

  • Install CentOS 5.7

Get the driver disk images for your box.e.g. for RHEL 5 (These are the drivers for the proliant RAID controller)
Use unetbootin to burn disc 1 as bootable onto the USB drive.
Copy accross all the iso files to the usb drive (with mv not unetbootin)
Download the driver disk from hp, rename it to *.iso copy it to the usb drive.
CentOS should install and install GRUB, but it will not boot yet.

Once grub has installed  it sets the USB drive as the boot device. You need to fix this to be /dev/cciss/c0d0 instead.
Get a CentOS LiveCD iso, or a CentOS minimal install iso (6.2 has one)
Boot it from USB, enter rescue mode for the minimal install.
It drops you to a shell eventually.
Configure grub.conf and, as explained here.
Note that the menu should have kernel parameter: root=/dev/VolGroup01/LogVol00

All done.


10 thoughts on “How to setup linux on a Proliant DL385 G1

  1. I should have been more specific in my post. I have 2xProliant DL385 G1 one with 10G memory the other with 12G memory. Each has a CD Drive and Floppy drive.

    I have been able to install a number of earlier versions of Linux which install GRUB which all boot reliably. This includes various versions of Debian, OpenSuse, Lubuntu.

    My servers have HP Smart array 6i controllers so use the cciss drivers as the newer hpsa drivers do not support or work with 6i.

    What I cannot get to boot after an install is any linux which uses Grub2. If a Grub2 install finishes I cannot get a reboot into linux. In some cases I can put the install CD in the drive, select to boot from cd and then select boot from 1st hard drive and boot into the just installed system.

    None of the boot rescue cd’s I have tried will boot.

    I am trying various suggestions on how to configure Grub2 to recognize the scsi array and will post successes or failures to this thread.

    One other problem with modern installs is the G1’s have 8mb of onboard graphics which cannot be easily upgraded. This creates very slow refreshes and weird screen paintings with KDE plasma and other desktops. I generally install LXDE or another lightweight interface.

    • Thanks for pointing out Lubuntu. I’ve updated the post with a workaround for the CentOS high res install screen, and some info on the cciss drivers.

      For a rescue disk, the CentOS 6.2 minimal install ISO rescue mode option brought me to a shell.

    • Regarding the boot disk, the issue might be that you need a boot disk that has the ccsiss driver compiled into the kernel – they probably try to minimize the kernel image size by leaving out non-essential drivers.

  2. Hi Lance, i have by a DL385 with 2 Opteron 285 Dual Core, i have installed OpenSuse 11.3, but OpenSuse does not detect the second processor and Dual Core, have you had the same problem?
    If so, what did you find solution.

    I have installed now SLES 10 SP2 with HP drivers, same horror …. Only 1 core is detected.

    • Choksta,

      Sorry I cannot help I have put the HP servers aside for a while as I am now busy on a project with Macs. I did very little with OpenSuse except install as I manly use LXDE on Ubuntu or use Debian. I tried OpenSuse when various of the other Linux distributions would not install.

      I will try the servers next weekend (28/4/2013) and see if any of the distro’s I am using find the second processor and dual core. My memory is that Debian did but I will check and confirm.

      • Hi Lance, i have found the problem since 3 hours, it’s a BIOS parameter – ACPI FULL TABLE, now it works fine, with the 4 cores Up & Running.
        Thank’s for your answer.

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