A couple of weeks ago, I waxed glowingly about Ubuntu running on a handful of Intel NUCs that I picked up on Amazon, replacing some aging PCs serving various purposes around the house. I have since returned all three of those...and upgraded to the i5 version!!! Read on to find out why...Whenever I publish an article here, the Blogger/G+ integration immediately posts a link to my G+ feed. In that thread, Mark Shuttleworth asked if these NUCs supported IPMI or a similar technology, such that they could be enabled in MAAS. I responded in kind, that, sadly, no, they only support tried-and-trusty-but-dumb-old-Wake-on-LAN.
Alas, an old friend, fellow homebrewer, and new Canonicaler, Ryan Harper, noted that the i5-3427u version of the NUC (performance specs here) actually supports Intel AMT, which is similar to IPMI. Actually, it's an implementation of WBEM, which itself is fundamentally an implementation of the CIM standard.
That's a health dose of alphabet soup for you. MAAS, NUC, AMT, IPMI, WEBM, CIM. What does all of this mean?
Let's do a quick round of introductions for the uninitiated!
- NUC - Intel's Next Unit of Computing. It's a palm sized computer, probably intended to be a desktop, but actually functions quite well as a Linux server too. Drawing about 10W, it's has roughly the same power of an AWS m1.xlarge, and costs about as much as 45 days of an m1.xlarge's EC2 bill.
- MAAS - Metal as a Service. Installing Ubuntu servers (or desktops, for that matter), one by one, with a CD/DVD/USB-key is so 2004. MAAS is your PXE/DHCP/TFTP/DNS (shit, more alphabet soup...) solution, all-in-one, ready to install Ubuntu onto lots of systems at scale! Oh, and good news... Juju supports MAAS as one of its environments, which is cool, in that you can deploy any charmed Juju workload to bare metal, in addition to AWS and OpenStack clouds.
- AMT - Intel's Asset Management Technology. This is a feature found on some Intel platforms (specifically, those whose CPU and motherboard support vPro technology), which enables remote management of the system. Specifically, if you can authenticate successfully to the system, you can retrieve detailed information about the hardware, power cycle it on and off, and modify the boot sequence. These are the essential functions that MAAS requires to support a system.
- IPMI - Intelligent Platform Management Interface. Also pioneered by Intel, this is a more server focused remote network management of systems, providing power on/off and other capabilities.
- WBEM - Web Based Enterprise Management. Remote system management technology available through a web browser, based on some internet standards, including CIM.
- CIM - Common Information Model. An open open standard that defines how systems in an IT environment are represented and managed. Does that sound meta to you? Well, yes, yes it is.
So I actually returned all 3 of my Intel NUCs, which had the i3 processor, in favor of the more powerful (and slightly more expensive) i5 versions. Note that I specifically bought the i5 Ivy Bridge versions, rather than the newer i5 Haswell, because only the Ivy Bridge actually supports AMT (for reasons that I cannot explain). In fact, in comparison to Haswell, the Ivy Bridge systems:
- have AMT
- are less expensive
- have a higher maximum clock speed
- support a higher maximum memory
When 3 of my shiny new NUCs arrived, I was quite excited to try out this fancy new AMT feature. In fact, I had already enabled it and experimented with it on a couple of my development i7 Thinkpads, so I more or less knew what to expect.
At this point, I split this post in two. You're welcome to read on, to learn what you need to know about Intel AMT + Ubuntu + the i5-3427u NUC...