Operation WS2K8

loocas | miscellaneous,opinions,technical | Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

I’ve finally found some spare time to dive into the server installation. I’ve chosen, after a bit of an evaluation, Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard (couldn’t have chosen Linux for several reasons and this version of Windows was the best choice). However, the installation process isn’t as easy and boring as it is on any regular PC, the server is a bit of a proprietary mash of partly commercially available parts and thus requires a little bit more elaborate approach.

The very first time I booted up the server I had to flash and update its SYSTEM and the PERC BIOSes at first, because they were of a bit older version that wasn’t officially supported by Dell.

Dell PowerEdge 2600 booting up

After that, I configured all the BIOSes based on the server’s configuration and then I put the Windows Server 2008 installation DVD (burned myself from the 60 day evaluation ISO provided by Microsoft) in the drive and expected it to boot into the regular installation process. But, to my surprise, the server kept on throwing a blue screen on me.

Windows Server 2008 installation loading

Windows Server 2008 installation loading

Windows Server 2008 installation BSOD

The error code was as follows:

STOP: 0x00000124 (0x00000003, 0x00000000, 0x00000000, 0x00000000)

I spent a good day on the internet searching for the reason and a solution to this problem. Fortunately, though, Dell provides an easy install utility, they call it a Dell Systems Build and Update Utility, which takes care of mostly everything prior to installing the OS. It conveniently boots from a CD, lets you update all your BIOSes and Firmwares and also lets you configure the PERC without ever needing to go to the controller’s BIOS.

DSBUU booting up

DSBUU booting up

From there on it was a walk in a park. I just clicked a few options and buttons here and there and the utility took care of all the inner workings and pre-install preparations. It setup a partition to which it loaded the initial boot information and then restarted the server booting to an installation of Windows Server 2008. Then it asked me to put the installation DVD in the drive and the regular Windows installation took over, this time, without a BSOD ;)

DSBUU setup

Windows Server 2008 installation

Windows Server 2008 installation

Windows Server 2008 installation

From there on it was just a matter of providing a few information about the system and the globals for the Windows Server 2008 installer, just as it is with Vista or any other NT OS.

Windows Server 2008 installation

Windows Server 2008 installation

Done :)

Windows Server 2008

Windows Server 2008

Windows Server 2008

Now it’s just a matter of setting up the server environment, domains, user accounts and permissions and permissions and rules for the render slaves, which will then make it really easy on sliding in a 1U case with another render node, plugging it in and it’ll be ready for work immediately after.

Windows Server 2008

Windows Server 2008

I’ll still have to update some drivers and install several devices that weren’t recognized during the setup, like the LSI SAS controller for the MD1000.

Windows Server 2008

Once installed and configured properly I’ll start deploying the pipeline and proprietary tools that I’ve been working on. But I’ll have to prepare and test them first in a virtualized environment in a comfort on my workstation. Once ready, I’ll just create a install package and deploy the tools on the server so that it can start with the task of being the centralized backend of my studio.

Windows Server 2008 in VMWare


  1. Hey, cool update!
    Seems like the finish-line comes into sight ;)

    I would be interested in the “proprietary tools” you mentioned. Are you talking about some render-managing / organisation / backup-solution? Or are these more on the top-secret side of production tools, like the inhouse-tools of some of the big houses?

    I´m just curious…

    Also it would be nice, if you can post some performance benchmarks when the whole thing is up and running!

    btw: great blog and keep us updated ;)


    Comment by L-rac — October 15, 2009 @ 09:30

  2. Heya Carl,

    thanks for the kind words ;)

    As for priprietary tools. It’s a mixture of highly customized commercial packages like Nuke, 3ds Max, FrameCycler etc… runing on a Tactic server (southpawtech.com) that had to be utilized and customized specifically for the needs of my studio. The render management software is Deadline, again, customized to the pipeline. It’s all still in the stage of setting up and polishing, but when done, it’ll be beautiful :) I hope I’ll be able to show some examples here.

    As for benchmarks, I’m currently deciding between Xeons and Opterons for the render farm, from various points of view. So, since I have the luxury of starting from scratch, I’ll buy a machine from each camp and run tests on them to see how fast they are, how much heat they produce, how much energy they consume etc… and then post the benchmarks here. But this won’t happen sooner than January, February 2010.

    Right now I’m still to buy a lot of software for the server as well as the workstations and thus I’m a bit on an edge with my budget :)

    Thanks and cheers,

    – loocas

    Comment by loocas — October 15, 2009 @ 12:31

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