This post authored by Bhaskar Mukkamala Dell Server Engineering Team.

What makes Dell PowerEdge servers different? Dell PowerEdge® Servers are shipped with Unified Server Configurator that is enabled with Lifecycle Controller. Lifecycle Controller is a UEFI standard compliant Pre-OS deployment utility that enables media free OS deployment. All device drivers required for a chosen operating system and hardware configuration are embedded on the server. These drivers can be upgraded with a platform update feature of Dell Unified Server Configurator from Dell FTP directly.

The latest Unified Server Configurator release supports deployment in the following UEFI Aware operating systems:

The key difference that the Dell Unified Server Configurator provides is its provisioning of embedded OS drivers that speed up the OS installation. Also by providing a user friendly OS deployment wizard, it helps customers choose the right OS media and installation mode selection.

 

After the setup is launched from the Windows operating system installation, the process is the same for either UEFI or BIOS mode. The difference in the installed system after setup completes is that the hard disk partition format uses the GPT format with UEFI enabled and the windows boot environment uses a UEFI version of the Windows Boot Manager. Without UEFI enabled, the installed operating system uses the MBR format for hard disk partitions and a BIOS version of Windows Boot Manager.  The user must delete the existing partition which is formatted in MBR if the customer wants to install an UEFI based OS. The same is true for the reverse scenario if the disk is already formatted as GPT.

Current Windows-Specific UEFI Highlights

Two of the most notable Windows features for UEFI systems are the following:

  • Multicast deployment, which enables large scale network-based image deployment in manufacturing and enterprise settings.
  • Fast boot and resume from hibernation, which improves user experience.

Below are brief descriptions of both features:

Multicast Deployment

Most large organizations and system builders use image-based deployment to install an operating system that is preconfigured to meet their specific requirements. The original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or other large organization first creates a customized system image that includes the appropriate applications and settings. When new machines are added or older ones require operating system reinstallation, the image is sent over the network to the target machine.

Traditional unicast image deployment methods require each system to set up an individual connection with a central server and then download the full image over the network before installation can proceed. Unicast deployments often consume considerable network bandwidth and frequently overwhelm central image servers when too many connections are initiated at the same time.

Windows systems that support UEFI can perform multicast image deployment. During a multicast deployment, a central image server can send an image to multiple “listeners” at the same time. Any client that joins while the multicast is underway can receive the latter portion of the image, and then wait for the server to start another broadcast to fill in the first portion. This approach is especially useful in a manufacturing environment, because many clients can simultaneously receive images without overwhelming the network or the image server.

Fast Boot and Resume from Hibernate

Disk I/O speed significantly affects the time required to boot a computer or load the contents of a hibernation file into memory. The ability to read more data at faster speeds allows the CPU to operate more efficiently and makes both boot and resume from hibernate faster. Earlier BIOS systems use a firmware interface called Interrupt 13h (Int 13) to access block storage devices such as a hard disk drive. By using the Int 13 BIOS interface, software can read data only 64 KB at a time, but the EFI block I/O protocols enable data to be read 1 MB at a time. Windows systems with UEFI can therefore read data more efficiently, which improves boot and resume times.

To learn more about installation of UEFI aware Operating Systems:

Windows:

http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/system/platform/firmware/uefireg.mspx

http://download.microsoft.com/download/0/0/b/00bba048-35e6-4e5b-a3dc-36da83cbb0d1/UEFIGuide.docx

http://download.microsoft.com/download/9/c/5/9c5b2167-8017-4bae-9fde-d599bac8184a/UEFI_Windows.docx

SLES 11:

http://support.ap.dell.com/support/edocs/software/sles_mn/sles11/en/IIG/SLESIIG.pdf

http://www.novell.com/support/documentLink.do?externalID=7003263