RAID management from hell

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the state of the art when it comes to RAID management in 2013. It’s the monumentally awful LSI MegaRAID BIOS configuration interface on a fairly recent Dell C8000 series system:

My First RAIDâ„¢ by Hasbro

My First RAIDâ„¢ by Hasbro

I’m seriously offended. Who the hell lets this sort of garbage through QA for a high end product? It features such brilliant highlights as:

  • A faux windowing UI, with a god damn mouse cursor as primary input.
  • Yes, your eyes do not deceive you: A fucking WordArt logo.
  • A beautiful color scheme inspired by Windows 3.1.
  • A mouse cursor with Parkinson’s, simply useless over remote KVM.
  • Rage-inducing tab-tab-tab-enter keyboard navigation.
  • Highlighted shortcut keys with no obvious way of activating them (no Alt+key).
  • “WebBIOS is an HTML-based utility that is embedded in the firmware”. So they’ve implemented a browser in the BIOS firmware. Top job, I say, and an exquisite choice of technology. If only the Internet was more like LSI’s vision of the web.
  • A bad idea in 2003; a terrible idea in 2013; a horrible idea since always.

Luckily there’s an alternative to this madness in the slightly less dreadful MegaCLI command line tool. It’s a proprietary binary that at least doesn’t limit your options, but it is clearly not a work of art.

LSI: Get your shit together. Release full specs and source for MegaCLI and its character device interface under a permissive license to let distros include it or better yet, write a better one. You obviously do hardware better than software.

Dell: Demand better from LSI and raise the bar for software quality, both for third parties and yourself.


Dell serial number to UUID transform

This week’s useless exercise is about transforming between Dell serial numbers and UUIDs (in network byte order). Here’s an example showing how it works. The vv indicates direct ascii en/decoding and xx are unused constants. Those constants might mean something, but I have no idea what.

44 45 4c 4c - 33 00 - 10 34 - 80 36 - c4 c0 4f 32 33 4a
 D  E  L  L   vv xx - xx vv   xx vv   || xx xx vv vv vv
            +---<---- AND 0x7f ---<---++
            +--->----  OR 0x80 --->---++
            D  3          4       6             2  3  J

Doing the en/decoding in Python:

import binascii

def decodeuuid(uuid):
    data = binascii.unhexlify(uuid.replace('-',''))
    assert len(data) == 16
    return ''.join([
        chr(ord(data[10]) & 0x7f),

def encodeserial(serial):
    assert len(serial) == 7
    return binascii.hexlify('DELL%c%c%c%c%c%c%c%c%c%c%c%c' % (
        ord(serial[0]) | 0x80,

I originally wanted to fix a blank serial number on a system. It has UUID 44454c4c-0000-1020-8020-80c04f202020, and I thought I could derive the serial from that. Of course it turns out that the serial was just spaces after decoding. This indicates that the UUID is generated from the serial number and not the other way around.

Pulling warranty details from

Update 2014-04-04: In a moment of brilliance, Dell has published documentation for both their warranty and case management APIs! Mind blown. Thanks, Dell. Thell.

In 2012 Brian Mulloy helped Dell launch As opposed to their older SOAP API for warranty lookup, this one actually gives you the full warranty details. Let’s get straight to it.

For any URL access, you need to supply a 16-character apikey URL parameter. Until there’s some sort of registration service available, valid API keys at the moment are:


The URL resources (the last part of the URL path) can generally be accessed three ways:

resource       Returns XML
resource.xml   Returns XML
resource.json  Returns JSON (poorly disguised XML)

There are two interesting URLs. First, the warranty lookup:<args>

Apart from the apikey, you must supply a svctags parameter consisting of a list of 1 to 100 (max) service tags, separated by | (pipe symbol). Here’s an example.

The second interesting URL provides a mapping of codes to descriptions:<ctype>


ctype=type1    Country code to country name or region
ctype=type2    Warranty type code to description

Note that type2 descriptions are already present in the warranty info, so it’s not really necessary to fetch it. Plus, some warranty codes are not listed in the type2 list anyway (for example BZ for “Bronze Software Support”).

Dell have clearly thought of more uses for their api, such as case reporting. While it would be interesting to figure out how it works, it’ll have to wait for now.

I think this api is a very nice step in the right direction, although I wish Dell would open up more to free and independent use (especially of read-only operations such as warranty lookup) instead of the fairly closed approach they’ve taken so far: There’s nearly nearly zero published information about past and current apis — only sporadic forum posts and the occational WDSL — and lots of focus on pushing their management software as the sole consumer of the api. And let’s be honest, Dell does hardware a billion times better than they do software, which is why I prefer the option of handling the software on my own.

Fuckin’ UUIDs, how do they work?

Pretty much any computer these days has an smbios full of lovely data. The system UUID is particularly useful for identifying and keeping track of your servers. You happily assume it’s set in stone from now until the end of time, but then someone comes along and fucks up the byte order.

Here are some brilliant wtfs from a HP server:

# dmidecode -s system-uuid

$ curl -ks "https://ilo4/xmldata?item=All"

So the first three fields are in reverse byte order. Which one is the right one? Neither. Or both? Hngh!

HP’s UUID is a simple ascii encoding of the six-digit product number plus the ten-digit serial number:

$ python -c "import binascii as b
print b.hexlify('C1T43A2UX237109F');"

So dmidecode gets it right? Yeeaano. Not according to section 7.2.1 in version 2.6 of the smbios spec. In short, assumptions and poor specs have resulted in yet another mess. Dmidecode 2.10 adds the little endian parsing for smbios versions >= 2.6.

Here’s Dell doing the same thing:

# dmidecode -s system-uuid

Note the broken UUID format in the second field in the iDRAC’s SMASH CLP:

-> show admin1/system1

..and enumerating the WSMan CIM_ComputerSystem class gives the same result:


Dell have later added the WSMan DCIM_SystemView:smbiosGUID value that presents the uuid in network byte order (same as dmidecode <= 2.9).

Oh, and Dell’s C6100 servers come with the same UUID and serial numbers for all nodes in the enclosure. Thanks a lot, Dell.

More details on this UUID wtfery here.