Apr 192013

Siemens-Nixdorf LogoA short time ago a guy who goes by the nickname Drake Edgewater in the [x264 benchmark list] posted [here] at my site using the name Sjaak Trekhaak, so I contacted him via eMail, and after a very good conversation he said he’d send me some old hardware he doesn’t need any more, and basically for free! Wow.

So, there were some cool pieces in that package, like  a [Mylex AcceleRAID 352] (64-Bit 33MHz SCSI RAID-5), an [Adaptec AHA-29160] SCSI controller, some EDO-DRAMs and some SDR-SDRAMs. The most intriguing piece however was an old Siemens-Nixdorf system monitoring board for ISA slots, part number “S26361-D703-V6”. Unable to locate any documentation for the card itself I have tried to find out what I can. But first some pictures:

Now the funniest thing is, that the card is not detected by any operating system I tried so far. That would include Debian 6.0.7 Linux as well as Windows 2000 Professional. Windows hardware detection finds nothing, and on Linux, this is what dmesg | grep -i isa has to say, pretty much nothing:

[    7.260292] isapnp: Scanning for PnP cards...
[    7.616123] isapnp: No Plug & Play device found
[    7.677403] EISA: Probing bus 0 at eisa.
[    7.677666] EISA: Detected 0 cards.

The only hint of any activity is that the Maxell battery on the card gets warm during operation, indicating that it is being charged. The rest of the card stays cold though. I am not sure if it’s even meant to communicate with the host system via the ISA bus, or maybe via other means like the serial interface or one of the strange plugs on the bracket.

Also, there is this strange internal cable on the card with a 2×7 pin plug. Drake Edgewater is currently investigating whether he can find a corresponding piece at his place, to see whether we can learn more by determining what it should be hooked up to.

In the meantime I tried to find whatever documentation I could get on the IC chips on the card. Most of the chips are serial interfaces and line drivers, some clock generators, an SRAM chip, an RTC and a microcontroller, which seems to be the heart of the setup. Here is the entire set of IC documentation in PDF form:

So if you can learn anything from those, or if you happen to know this cards functionality, I’d be happy to hear about it! Some actual documentation would be awesome of course, as I couldn’t find anything about the card itself.

Intriguing indeed.

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 Siemens-Nixdorf ISA watchdog card: The hell is this? by The GAT at XIN.at is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

  6 Responses to “Siemens-Nixdorf ISA watchdog card: The hell is this?”

  1. I have found the board with the status leds and on/off switch of the server. Board number S26361-D928-V1, which seems to be a logic board (better call it an illogic board).

    It does have a 14 pin flatcable of about a metre in length. This should be able to connect to the motherboard and that card, well, it is physically possible, just looking at the connector size.
    On the motherboard this header is labelled “svfail”, and on the logic-board it is labelled “sv status”.
    There is also a 100-pin external-scsi-like connector labelled “system connector” and a six-pin molex floppy-power-like connector which is labelled “sv connector”.

    Most curious is the long flatcable.. Before the last connector (there are four), the cable is cut, but except for the last four pins. So counting from the red wire, the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th wire are still connected. This looks rather dodgy so I don’t think this is original.
    Well, that breakout-cable on that ‘watchdog card’ also looks kinda weird, albeit al lot more professional than the cable I have got here!

    “Hey, somebody mentions sv fail!”
    Oh, bugger it’s you: http://www.tualatin.de/phpbb/viewtopic.php?p=90540&sid=28ccfaf4cf54b26915bb0ffd816b9e3b#90540

    Oh well, maybe we should stop with this siemens-crap, before it brings back those awful memories! ;-)

    • Oh dear, yes, that was when I tried to build that machine from scratch, the major disaster. ;) I’m starting to believe only a Siemens engineer could solve this, or maybe someone who really knows these inside out.

      I wonder what “SV” actually means. Guess it’s supposed to be a german abbreviation, but even though german is my native language, I can’t quite imagine what it could stand for. Maybe it’s just something really generic, like “Systemverbindung”, which would mean something like system connector, as you’ve mentioned. Hm.

      • SV could also mean system voltage, or something… Other labels are in english as well.

        To confuse us even more: The two plugs next to de DB-9 port might be a Sun keyboard and mouse connector. Mini-DIN, but of course not PS/2, and talking RS232, but not on a 5 Volt level. If the third plug would be a 13w3 you might be able to say it really is to connect Sun stuff to it..

        Better look in the local mental asylum for ex-siemens engineers! If they would have had to deal with this… what would have become of them? ;-)

  2. http://www.dragoncomputers.com/manufacture_listing_all.php?man=siemens

    Over here it is listed as a “SYSTEM MONITOR BOARD”, but that could as well mean it comes from an ATM. It seems unlikely to me, as the guy I bought the card and other stuff from was parting out an Primergy 560/760 server.

  3. Hello,

    if I enter the (card) part number into a Google search, it seems as if the card was designed for automatic cash dispensing machines – at least there are some links referring to this kind of use. It would be logical as almost nobody would require such a feature for a “normal” PC (except for servers or the like…)

    The behaviour of the “plug-and-pray” tools of finding nothing is exactly what I would expect from such a card – you will have to talk to a specific I/O address directly, maybe some registers will have to be fed with reasonable values first before any operation can be observed. Alternatively the card can be designed in a way that its configuration is received by one of the serial ports. For the watchdog function itself it could be enough to decode the ISA address bus and the Read/Write flags and expect a software reading from or writing to a given address and discarding the data (the read or write access itself has a “signal footprint” that can be taken as a life sign).

    The small chip in its socket is likely to be an (E)EPROM of any kind, not a CPU. Maybe it is used for storing persistent configuration as the basic firmware might be located within the “classic” EPROM.

    Oh I see, you have updated your information – that’s just what I wanted to ask now, if you could give a list of all major components on that board…

    A little correction: the ALS244C “serial line driver” is a driver, but not a serial one – “driver” is also a generic term for chips that regenerate a signal or allow “gating” it. It is a typical bus interface (maybe for the ISA connection, maybe for controlling other 8-bit bus or even arbitrary binary signals).

    The Siemens 8051-based microcontroller is a VERY common device in industrial applications and a nice general-purpose device. As it is very common, it would be possible to attach a “hardware disassembler” to the address and data buses and read out (parts of) the software while the controller is booting.

    It might be helpful if you could try to follow some of the traces, or at least their amount, and tell which are going where. Depending on the routing it might be possible to guess the functionality more in detail, based on a very coarse “block diagram”.

    • Thanks for your input! I have made a proper correction for the ALS244C download link. I do not have the card right here at the moment, I looked at it and found that many of the “driver” chips seemed to have traces going to ISA, same goes for the EPROM if I remember correctly.

      But I can’t provide more detail at the given time, only one thing. I checked my email correspondence with Drake Edgewater, and this card comes from a Siemens Primergy 560 server. I got the information that it was also used in ATM machines from [here] too, so you’re on the right track there. But it seems it was also used in regular PC servers.

      It’s just that without any documentation it’s hard to say how it should be used. Maybe there are drivers and tools readily available, but I’d need to find them first!

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong> <pre lang="" line="" escaped="" cssfile="">