Linux Networking on Dell Poweredge 1855 (blade server)

A few days ago I visited a customer, installing Fedora Core 4 on a Dell Poweredge 1855, a blade server. This proved to be rather difficult when it came to network connectivity.

The Linux kernel recognized two Intel e1000 interfaces, but did not detect any link. Also, ethtool’s list of supported ports only includes “FIBRE”, which was kind of wrong. At least one of the ports should be “TP”.

We fiddled around for a while upgrading the kernel and trying various versions of the e1000 driver, with no success. We gave up, wrote some mail to the people at Intel, connected the server with a USB network card and did what we were there to do - although we had to visit the server once every 30 minutes or so because the USB network card ceased to function now and then. Oh well, 3com..

Anyway, the day after we got a response from Intel. It turned out that if you connected the server to a Gigabit port in a switch, and locked that port to Full Duplex, the card began to work. Hooray!

Note: I won’t take false credit for the solution to this problem. My colleage Pierre Ossman did most of the hard work.

Written on March 15, 2006