4 HP DL380 G6s + HP SmartStart 8.30 + Windows Server 2008 R2 x64 Enterprise Core = FAIL

Customer ABC (not their real name) required a number of servers for a new project they are undertaking where they are moving a solution that is currently hosted to in-house. We analysed the solution and recommended the following hardware all running Server 2008 x64 Core and running as Hyper-V host servers (later in the project I will be installing various 2008 server roles.

4 x HP DL380 G6 (with the following in each)
2 x Quad core processors
18GB of memory
5 x 300GB SAS storage
1 x 4 port NIC

HP DL380 G6

The customer agreed, hardware and software was purchased and sent to site. A couple of days later I went to site and built the 4 servers and installed them in the customer’s new rack. This all went fine.

I ran the RAID configuration and created a 1TB RAID 5 logical disk then ran the HP SmartStart 8.30 x64 CD. Selected install from the SmartStart menu and selected that I wished to install Windows Server 2008 R2 x64 then chose the Enterprise Core version. I would have liked to have the full 1TB as the system partition but only had the choice of a maximum of ~500GB so I chose to use 64GB for the system partition leaving the rest of the space for the Hyper-V virtual machines.

This next part I was doing on all 4 servers at the same time as there is an element of waiting involved in some areas of the installation.

I entered the required information so that SmartStart could create the unattended answer file for the Windows Server installation. I used this customer’s local administrator password and confirmed it. Windows installed and the servers rebooted, excellent I thought…

I was then prompted to login to Windows so I entered the password I gave during the SmartStart install but this was not recognised. Hmm. Tried it on another server as I thought I might have made a typo (although unlikely as I had to confirm the password) but this also fail saying the username or password is incorrect! Tried to login on the other 2 server but the password is failing on them too.

I thought there might have been an issue with the special character that’s in the password however the only special character is + which is the same in US keyboard layout as it is in UK.

Called HP technical support and told them the issue I was experiencing but their response was “You must have typed the password in wrong”. I did mention to them that the same issue has occurred on 4 different servers and during the installation I had to confirm the password twice per server. So that’s 8 times that I typed the password in wrong. I think not. Their only other suggestion was to install Windows manually.

I decided not to go with their suggestion.

I put the “SmartStart” CD back in and reinstalled the Server 2008 R2 Core OS but left the administrator password blank in the SmartStart software. Low and behold I was able to login with the blank password (and immediately asked to set a password).

Please don’t let this smart and usually helpful software trip you up in the same way.