From the Canyon Edge -- :-Dustin

Saturday, December 21, 2013

What you need to know about Intel AMT and the Intel NUC with Ubuntu

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 i5-3427u version, since it supports Intel AMT.  Why would I do that?  Read on...
When 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.

But what followed was 6 straight hours of complete and utter frustration :-(  Like slam your fist into the keyboard and shout obscenities into cheese.
Actually, on that last point, I find it useful, when I'm mad, to open up cheese on my desktop and get visibly angry.  Once I realize how dumb I look when I'm angry, its a bit easier to stop being angry.  Seriously, try it sometime.
Okay, so I posted a couple of support requests on Intel's community forums.

Basically, I found it nearly impossible (like 1 in 100 chances) of actually getting into the AMT configuration menu using the required Ctrl-P.  And in the 2 or 3 times I did get in there, the default password, "admin", did not work.

After putting the kids to bed, downing a few pints of homebrewed beer, and attempting sleep (with a 2-week-old in the house), I lay in bed, awake in the middle of the night and it crossed my mind that...
No, no.  No way.  That couldn't be it.  Surely not.  That's really, really dumb.  Is it possible that the NUC's BIOS...  Nah.  Maybe, though.  It's worth a try at this point?  Maybe, just maybe, the NumLock key is enabled at boot???  It can't be.  The NumLock key is effin retarded, and almost as dumb as its braindead cousin, the CapsLock key.  OMFG!!!
Yep, that was it.  Unbelievable.  The system boots with the NumLock key toggled on.  My keyboard doesn't have an LED indicator that tells me such inane nonsense is the case.  And the BIOS doesn't expose a setting to toggle this behavior.  The "P" key is one of the keys that is NumLocked to "*".

So there must be some incredibly unlikely race condition that I could win 1 in 100 times where me pressing Ctrl-P frantically enough actually sneaks me into the AMT configuration.  Seriously, Intel peeps, please make this an F-key, like the rest of the BIOS and early boot options...

And once I was there, the default password, "admin", includes two more keys that are NumLocked.  For security reasons, these look like "*****" no matter what I'm typing.  When I thought I was typing "admin", I was actually typing "ad05n".  And of course, there's no scratch pad where I can test my keyboard and see that this is the case.  In fact, I'm not the only person hitting similar issues.  It seems that most people using keyboards other than US-English are quite confused when they type "admin" over and over and over again, to their frustration.

Okay, rant over.  I posted my solution back to my own questions on the forum.  And finally started playing with AMT!

The synopsis: AMT is really, really impressive!

First, you need to enter bios and ensure that it's enabled.  Then, you need to do whatever it takes to enter Intel's MEBx interface, using Ctrl-P (NumLock notwithstanding).  You'll be prompted for a password, and on your first login, this should be "admin" (NumLock notwithstanding).  Then you'll need to choose your own strong password.  Once in there, you'll need to enable a couple of settings, including networking/dhcp auto setup.  You can, at your option, also install some TLS certificates and secure your communications with your device.

AMT has a very simple, intuitive web interface.  Here are a comprehensive set of screen shots of all of the individual pages.

Once AMT is enabled on the target system, point a browser to port 16992, and click "Log On..."

The username is always "admin".  You'll set this password in the MEBx interface, using Ctrl-P just after BIOS post.

Here's the basic system status/overview.

The System Information page contains basic information about the system itself, including some of its capabilities.

The processor information page gives you the low down on your CPU.  Search for your Intel CPU type to see all of its capabilities.

Check your memory capacity, type, speed, etc.

And your disk type, size, and serial number.

NUCs don't have battery information, but my Thinkpad does.

An event log has some interesting early boot and debug information here.

Arguably the most useful page, here you can power a system on, off, or hard reboot it.

If you have wireless capability, you choose whether you want that enabled/disabled when the system is off, suspended, or hibernated.

Here you can configure the network settings.  Unlike a BMC (Board Management Controller) on most server class hardware, which has its own dedicated interface, Intel AMT actually shares the network interface with the Operating System.

AMT actually supports IPv6 networking as well, though I haven't played with it yet.

Configure the hostname and Dynamic DNS here.

You can set up independent user accounts, if necessary.

And with a BIOS update, you can actually use Intel AMT over a wireless connection (if you have an Intel wireless card)
So this pointy/clicky web interface is nice, but not terribly scriptable (without some nasty screenscraping).  What about the command line interface?

The amttool command (provided by the amtterm package in Ubuntu) offers a nice command line interface into some of the functionality exposed by AMT.  You need to export an environment variable, AMT_PASSWORD, and then you can get some remote information about the system:

kirkland@x230:~⟫ amttool info
### AMT info on machine '' ###
AMT version:  7.1.20
Hostname:     nuc1.
Powerstate:   S0
Remote Control Capabilities:
    IanaOemNumber                   0
    OemDefinedCapabilities          IDER SOL BiosSetup BiosPause
    SpecialCommandsSupported        PXE-boot HD-boot cd-boot
    SystemCapabilitiesSupported     powercycle powerdown powerup reset
    SystemFirmwareCapabilities      f800

You can also retrieve the networking information:

kirkland@x230:~⟫ amttool netinfo
Network Interface 0:
    DhcpEnabled                     true
    HardwareAddressDescription      Wired0
    InterfaceMode                   SHARED_MAC_ADDRESS
    LinkPolicy                      31
    MACAddress                      00-aa-bb-cc-dd-ee
Network Interface 1:
    DhcpEnabled                     true
    HardwareAddressDescription      Wireless1
    InterfaceMode                   SHARED_MAC_ADDRESS
    LinkPolicy                      0
    MACAddress                      ee-ff-aa-bb-cc-dd

Far more handy than WoL alone, you can power up, power down, and power cycle the system.

kirkland@x230:~⟫ amttool powerdown
host x220., powerdown [y/N] ? y
execute: powerdown
result: pt_status: success

kirkland@x230:~⟫ amttool powerup
host x220., powerup [y/N] ? y
execute: powerup
result: pt_status: success

kirkland@x230:~⟫ amttool powercycle
host x220., powercycle [y/N] ? y
execute: powercycle
result: pt_status: success

I was a little disappointed that amttool's info command didn't provide nearly as much information as the web interface.  However, I did find a fork of Gerd Hoffman's original Perl script in Sourceforge here.  I don't know the upstream-ability of this code, but it worked very well for my part, and I'm considering sponsoring/merging it into Ubuntu for 14.04.  Anyone have further experience with these enhancements?

kirkland@x230:/tmp⟫ ./amttool hwasset data BIOS
## '' :: AMT Hardware Asset
 Data for the asset 'BIOS' (1 item):
  (data struct.ver. 1.0)
   Vendor:       'Intel Corp.'
   Version:      'RKPPT10H.86A.0028.2013.1016.1429'
   Release date: '10/16/2013'
   BIOS characteristics: 'PCI' 'BIOS upgradeable' 'BIOS shadowing
allowed' 'Boot from CD' 'Selectable boot' 'EDD spec' 'int13h 5.25 in
1.2 mb floppy' 'int13h 3.5 in 720 kb floppy' 'int13h 3.5 in 2.88 mb
floppy' 'int5h print screen services' 'int14h serial services'
'int17h printer services'

kirkland@x230:/tmp⟫ ./amttool hwasset data ComputerSystem
## '' :: AMT Hardware Asset
 Data for the asset 'ComputerSystem' (1 item):
  (data struct.ver. 1.0)
   Manufacturer: '                                 '
   Product:      '                                 '
   Version:      '                                 '
   Serial numb.: '                                 '
   UUID:         7ae34e30-44ab-41b7-988f-d98c74ab383d

kirkland@x230:/tmp⟫ ./amttool hwasset data Baseboard
## '' :: AMT Hardware Asset
 Data for the asset 'Baseboard' (1 item):
  (data struct.ver. 1.0)
   Manufacturer: 'Intel Corporation'
   Product:      'D53427RKE'
   Version:      'G87971-403'
   Serial numb.: '27XC63723G4'
   Asset tag:    'To be filled by O.E.M.'
   Replaceable:  yes

kirkland@x230:/tmp⟫ ./amttool hwasset data Processor
## '' :: AMT Hardware Asset
 Data for the asset 'Processor' (1 item):
  (data struct.ver. 1.0)
   ID:                  0x4529f9eaac0f
   Max Socket Speed:    2800 MHz
   Current Speed:       1800 MHz
   Processor Status:    Enabled
   Processor Type:      Central
   Socket Populated:    yes
   Processor family:    'Intel(R) Core(TM) i5 processor'
   Upgrade Information: [0x22]
   Socket Designation:  'CPU 1'
   Manufacturer:        'Intel(R) Corporation'
   Version:             'Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-3427U CPU @ 1.80GHz'

kirkland@x230:/tmp⟫ ./amttool hwasset data MemoryModule
## '' :: AMT Hardware Asset
 Data for the asset 'MemoryModule' (2 items):
  (* No memory device in the socket *)
  (data struct.ver. 1.0)
   Size:         8192 Mb
   Form Factor:  'SODIMM'
   Memory Type:  'DDR3'
   Memory Type Details:, 'Synchronous'
   Speed:        1333 MHz
   Manufacturer: '029E'
   Serial numb.: '123456789'
   Asset Tag:    '9876543210'
   Part Number:  'GE86sTBF5emdppj '

kirkland@x230:/tmp⟫ ./amttool hwasset data VproVerificationTable
## '' :: AMT Hardware Asset
 Data for the asset 'VproVerificationTable' (1 item):
  (data struct.ver. 1.0)
   CPU: VMX=Enabled SMX=Enabled LT/TXT=Enabled VT-x=Enabled
   MCH: PCI Bus 0x00 / Dev 0x08 / Func 0x00
        Dev Identification Number (DID): 0x0000
        Capabilities: VT-d=NOT_Capable TXT=NOT_Capable Bit_50=Enabled
Bit_52=Enabled Bit_56=Enabled
   ICH: PCI Bus 0x00 / Dev 0xf8 / Func 0x00
        Dev Identification Number (DID): 0x1e56
   ME:  Enabled
        Intel_QST_FW=NOT_Supported Intel_ASF_FW=NOT_Supported
Intel_AMT_FW=Supported Bit_13=Enabled Bit_14=Enabled Bit_15=Enabled
        ME FW ver. 8.1 hotfix 40 build 1416
   TPM: Disabled
        TPM on board = NOT_Supported
   Network Devices:
        Wired NIC - PCI Bus 0x00 / Dev 0xc8 / Func 0x00 / DID 0x1502
   BIOS supports setup screen for (can be editable): VT-d TXT
        supports VA extensions (ACPI Op region) with maximum ver. 2.6
        SPI Flash has Platform Data region reserved.

On a different note, I recently sponsored a package, wsmancli, into Ubuntu Universe for Trusty, at the request of Kent Baxley (Canonical) and Jared Dominguez (Dell), which provides the wsman command.  Jared writes more about it here in this Dell technical post.  With Kent's help, I did manage get wsman to remotely power on a system.  I must say that it's a bit less user friendly than the equivalent amttool functionality above...

kirkland@x230:~⟫  wsman invoke -a RequestPowerStateChange -J request.xml"CIM_ComputerSystem",SystemName="Intel(r)AMT",CreationClassName="CIM_PowerManagementService",Name="Intel(r) AMT Power Management Service" --port 16992 -h --username admin -p "ABC123abc123#" -V -v

I'm really enjoying the ability to remotely administer these systems.  And I'm really, really looking forward to the day when I can use MAAS to provision these systems!


Why I returned all of my i3 Intel NUCs...

and bought 3 more with the i5-3427u CPU!

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.
Okay, we have our what?

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:
  1. have AMT
  2. are less expensive
  3. have a higher maximum clock speed
  4. support a higher maximum memory
The only advantage I can see of the newer Haswells is a slightly lower energy footprint, and a slightly better video processor.

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...