Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"Hardware not supported"

When installing Cisco Unified Communication products (CUCM, CUPS, CER, UC, CUMA, etc.), you might get a message saying that the hardware is not supported. It's a pain in the butt. Espeically when you (or you client) spent quite a few $$$ to get a brand new server and yielded "not supported".


Cisco itself does not manufacture servers (not until lately, with introducing of 'Unified Computing'). Cisco OEM servers (x86) from IBM, HP and Dell and brand it as "Cisco MCS" (Media Convergence Server). Cisco also labels those servers with it's own model number. For example, MCS-7845-H2 is actually a HP DL380 G5 server.

Cisco recommends customers purchase "Cisco MCS" server for Unified Communication products. The major advantage of that is it guarantees the compatibility between hardware and software. For example, you may find the CUCM compatibility matrix here: http://www.cisco.com/en/US/prod/collateral/voicesw/ps6790/ps5748/ps378/prod_brochure0900aecd8062a4f9.html

The mess

Even though Cisco recommends customers purchase MCS servers, it does not prohibit people from buying "equivalence" from manufacturers directly (ie. from IBM/HP/Dell).

If you decided to buy "equivalence", be careful, Cisco has very strict requirements on that. If you didn't order the right parts, the server could yield "not supported" (ie. the software install will fail).

What does it look for?

When the software being installed, it usually looks for the following attributes on the system:
1) Machine type (model number in BIOS)
2) Hard drive and RAID card
3) CPU speed
4) Memory

Frequently seen issues:

#1 You have an MCS I-series ("I" stands for IBM) server from Cisco. One day, the motherboard burnt out. IBM replaced the motherboard (yes, it's IBM who services the server, though you bought it from Cisco).

You tried to reinstall CUCM 6.1.2, but it kept saying the server was not supported.

Cause of the problem:
In IBM BIOS, there's a field called "Machine Type". The generic IBM machine type is different with Cisco MCS machine type.

1) Obtain a BIOS update disk for the server from here (2000.4.4 supported version 1.14, this link is for 1.17, please note that 1.17 has NOT been tested): http://www-304.ibm.com/jct01004c/systems/support/supportsite.wss/docdisplay?lndocid=MIGR-57074&brandind=5000008

2) Boot to the disk and flash the BIOS. During the BIOS flash, you should receive a prompt as to whether or not you would like to change the MTM. Please select yes, and enter the correct machine type (e.g. 884xxxx)

Note: the above should be performed by a Cisco TAC engineer.

#2 You have an MCS H-series ("H" stands for HP) server from Cisco. One day, the motherboard burnt out. HP replaced the motherboard (yes, it's HP who services the server, though you bought it from Cisco).

You tried to reinstall CUPS 6.0.4, but it kept saying the server was not supported.

Cause of the problem:
Your old motherboard was with a CPU at speed of 2.13 Ghz. Since the 2.13 Ghz CPU was end of life, HP gave you a 2.8 Ghz CPU and thought you'd be happy with that.

Though you might be happy with the faster CPU, the software was not happy at all. Based on the machine type, the software expect a 2.13Ghz CPU.

#3 You ordered a server from HP, you made sure the CPU, memory, hard disks meet the Cisco requirements. But the software stills said "hardware not supported".

Root cause of the problem:
You forgot to order a "PCI-X/E Mixed Riser Option" from HP.

How do we find the "equivalence" of a MCS server (so you can order it from HP/IBM)?

Step 1: Go to product compatibility page and find a supported MCS server. e.g. for CUPS 6, go to http://www.cisco.com/en/US/docs/voice_ip_comm/cups/7_0/english/compatibility/cupcompatibility.html#wp77512. Let say, you picked MCS-7825-I3-IPC1, which is good for CUPS 6.0.4 new install.

Step 2: Go to this page and click on IBM or HP link (http://www.cisco.com/en/US/products/hw/voiceapp/ps378/product_solution_overview_list.html). MCS-7825-I3-IPC1 is an IBM server. So you would click on the IBM link.

Step 3: Search for the 2nd and 3rd part of the MCS model number. e.g. 7825-I3 in this case. You'll find something like this:

IBM x3250 with Intel 3050 Xeon 2.13-GHz Processor
"... It is the configuration equivalent of the Cisco MCS 7825-I3"

And you'll find the parts list for it:

Table 19. Non-Country Specific Hardware for IBM x3250 with Intel 3050 Xeon 2.13-GHz Processor*


IBM Type-Model Feature



4364-AC1** or

IBM System x3250



CPU Retention Module



x3250 Revision 1 System Planar



Dual Core Intel Xeon 3050 (2.13 GHz / 2M L2)



1-GB DDR2 667 SDRAM DIMM Memory






Front Bezel



3.5inch DASD Cage



SATA Filler 3.5inch



Base Hardware



CDRW/DVD Combo V UltraBay Enhanced



Rack Mount Kit



Simple Swap SATA RAID Kit



160GB 7200 RPM 3.5 inch Simple Swap SATA HDD



Internal RAID - Cabled only - setup by Customer

You'll have to order each piece on the list.

If we got a "hardware not supported" message, how do we know which part is not meeting the requirements?

To see the reason of the failure, you need to review the /tmp/hw_validation_err file on the hard drive. You may press ALT+F2 while the installation is in progress (before it gets to halt state). Then you'll get to the Linux command prompt. Type the command below to display the content of the file:

cat /tmp/hw_validation_err

Other useful files include: /tmp/hw_info, /tmp/anaconda.log and /tmp/install.log.


  1. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



  2. Thank you very much for your comment. Comments (no matter good or bad) encourage people keep improving. :)


  3. Good article, considering all my customers are now asking for HP server prices given the cost of MCS servers.

  4. I have some CM 6.1.2 servers running with a 2.4 GHz procs which is not supported in CM7.

    If I replace the procs with 3.06 GHz procs and run the upgrade to CM7 will the upgrade process recheck the physical CPU hardware (and properly detect a supported proc) or will the CM7 upgrade read a static config file written during the CM 6.1 install (and detect an non-supported proc).


  5. Good question. To be honest, I don't know the answer. But I guess the upgrade would go through.

    HW detect is usually performed on fresh-install. But I have to double-check.

    Another workaround would be move the hard drive(s) to a supported platform and do the install/upgrade. Then move the hard drive back.

  6. I like this information about this, I would like read more information about this, because is very interesting, thanks for sharing this information about hardware!

  7. Hi,

    Thanx for this blog !
    I use a MCS 7815-I2 in lab environment to test CUCM releases and features. This server is not supported anymore with CUCM v8.5.

    Do you think that there is a way to make believe to the CUCM install that the server is another platform (7816 for example).

    I have root access on it. So I tought there could be somewhere a file I could modify ?

    Thanx again for your blog.

  8. The CUCM installer uses a script to do hardware check. There's also a table that contains all supported platform. I don't remember the file name on top of my head. But you may use the linux "find" or "grep" command to search for it.