Today we are going to look at the simple process of installing an AXXRMM4LITE module into an Intel RMM4_LITE header to unlock iKVM features on many current Intel platforms. Most of Intel’s current server motherboards have remote management capabilities built-in, but require a special key to unlock iKVM functionality.
When is an Intel AXXRMM4LITE used?
An AXXRMM4LITE is used in Intel branded server platforms that have the specific header (usually noted as the RMM4_LITE.) These are important distinctions as one cannot, for example, use an AXXRMM4LITE to get full iKVM functionality on an Intel-based HP ProLiant server with iLO for example. That would require a different key. Another distinction is that the AXXRMM4LITE is generally used on higher-end motherboards since these motherboards already have the management logic and interfaces built-in.
Intel servers do have some management features accessible via standard IPMI tools, much like Lenovo Thinkservers. When one wants iKVM functionality, a key is required to unlock.
For those unfamiliar, iKVM functionality essentially uses a JAVA application to connect to the server. This application allows one to access the server remotely as though they had a keyboard video and mouse (KVM). iKVM implementations such as this also allow one to remotely mount disk images for tasks such as using recovery CD ISOs or installation media ISOs. One can use the functionality to reboot systems and even enter UEFI BIOS to change settings pre-OS boot for the motherboard or even disk controllers.
The AXXRMM4LITE Module
Since the capabilities are already found on many Intel platforms, the AXXRMM4LITE module is simply a hardware activation key. This generally means a single ROM chip, a small piece of PCB and a connector. One can see, the US $0.10 coin (fairly small) dwarfs the key when it comes to size.
Previous versions of the Intel Remote Management Modules (e.g. the RMM3 and RMM4) were not simply activation keys and instead were modules that included the actual management physical interface. Here is a shot from Intel on those modules.
As one can see, the RMM3 and RMM4 are much larger modules.
Installing the AXXRMM4LITE module
To install, the first step is to find the actual header. In our 2U Intel Wildcat Pass server for the Intel Xeon E5-2600 V3 this was directly next to the high-speed networking mezzanine card expansion slot and the system buzzer.
After that one can simply align the pins and insert the module. Following the motherboard from the module to the rear of the chassis one can see the Realtek NIC that runs the management LAN and then the management RJ-45 connector for the rear I/O panel.
Once this is done, one can simply log into the console and the “Remote Control” tab will be active with a “Console Redirection” link. One can simply click on Launch Console, and provided pop-ups are enabled for the management site and there is a working JAVA version on the client machine, one can start working on the machine.
Overall, this should be a must-do on just about every server. Something like 80% or more of the dual socket servers made in the E5 generations had remote management capabilities. Vendors such as Supermicro are now making it a standard feature on their systems.
How do I get one and how much should I pay?
The naming conventions on the modules are very confusing, especially if you have to add one to a system after purchase. Naming conventions are fluid at best. I have purchased the modules using either RMM4_LITE or AXXRMM4LITE.
- Amazon has them with sellers ranging usually from $36-$72. Here is a good Amazon search to use
- Ebay can have the best deals with the lowest I have purchased one for $23 and range to $75 (see this ebay search)
- Newegg is usually in the $45-52 range with shipping see here. One trick is to buy Newegg through ebay to get the ebay 1% cash back bonus
I still have not found a difference is between a $72 module and a $23 one except for price so it does pay to shop around a bit.