Archive for the 'DMC' Category

New Servers, New Software and more

Dell announced Monday our Dell PowerEdge 12th Generation Servers and always, the hardware garnered much of the interest, it’s tangible and you can see it, as in this picture of my boss and Dell VP/GM of Server Solutions, Forrest Norrod holding up our new 4-up M420 Blade server. However, along side the were a ton of announced and unannounced new features.


The first worth a mention comes from our team, out-of-band management for updating the BIOS and firmware and managing hardware settings—independent of the OS or hypervisor throughout a server’s life cycle, and initial deployment of an OS for a physical server or a hypervisor for a virtual machine. That function is delivered by the Integrated Dell Remote Access Controller 7 with Lifecycle Controller (iDRAC7).

It is an all-in-one, out-of-band systems management option to remotely manage Dell PowerEdge servers. In iDRAC7, we have combined hardware enablement capabilities into a single, embedded controller that includes its own processor, power, and network connection and without OS agents, even when the OS or hypervisor isn’t booted. The iDRAC7 architects have worked with marketing to pull together a useful summary of the capabilities, it can be found here.

OpenManage Essentials

The next software initiative announced was the 1.0.1 release of OpenManage Essentials (OME). We listened to customers when it came to management consoles and while a lot of companies liked what we’d been doing and our partnership with Symantec for Dell Management Console, many of our smaller customers, and a few bigger ones wanted a simpler console for monitoring and that was quicker and easier to deploy. OME is it. There is a full OME wiki page here and development lead Rob Cox has summarised the 1.0.1 update here.

OpenManage Power Center

Not formally announced, but covered in slides and some presentations, because it’s linked to some of the advanced power management of our servers. The Fresh Air Initiative, Energy Smart design and the introduction of OpenManage Power Center in our 12th generation servers has the potential to change the way you power and manage the power distributions across servers, racks and more.

Dell Virtual Network Architecture

There is a new wikicovering the announcement of the Dell Virtual Network Architecture, which has at its’ foundation High-performance switching systems for campus and data centers; Virtualized Layer 4-7 services; Comprehensive automation & orchestration software; Open workload/hypervisor interfaces. Our VNA framework aims to extend our current networking and virtualization capabilities across branch, campus and data center environments with an open networking framework for efficient IT infrastructure and workload intelligence. Shane Schick over on IT World Canada has a good summary.

Oh yeah, there was hardware too… Tomothy Prickett Morgan has a useful summary over at vulture central and the Dell summary page is here.

Cote on Consumer to Enterprise

REST Interface slide from Cote presentation

REST Interface slide from Cote presentation

Over on his people over process blog, Redmonk Analyst, Michael Cote, has what is a great idea, a rehersal of an upcoming presentation including slides and audio.

The presentation covers what technology is making the jump from the consumer side of applications and IT into the enterprise. I’m delighted to report Cote has used a quote from me on REST.

For clarification, the work we are doing isn’t directly related to our PowerEdge C-servers, or our cloud services. For that, Dell customer Rackspace cloud has some good REST API‘s and is well ahead of us, in fact I read a lot of their documentation while working on our stuff.

On the other hand, I’m adamant that the work we are doing adding a REST-like set of interfaces to our embedded systems management, is not adding REST API’s. Also, since I did contribute requirements and participate in discussions around WS-* back when I was IBM, I’d say that we were trying to solve an entirely different set of problems, and hence now REST is the right answer, to externalize the data needed for a web based UI.

At the same time, we will also continue to offer a complete implementation of WS Management(WSMAN). WSMAN is a valuable tool to externalize the complexity of a server, in order for it to be managed by an external console or control point. Dell provides the Dell Management Console (DMC) which consumes WSMAN and provides one-to-many server management.

The point of the REST interfaces is to provide a simple way to get data needed to display in a Web UI, we don’t see having to expose all the same data, and can use a much more lightweight infrastructure to process it. At the same time, it’s the objective of this project to keep the UI simple for one-to-one management. Customers who want a more complex management platform will be able to use DMC, or exploit the WSMAN availability.

Back on the blog

Wow, is it really March 2010?? Time has been flying by, I’ve been busy working with the team on a set of REST based UI interfaces for the next generation of PowerEdge embedded management processors, and hope to be able to share more of that work soon. We are also working towards a more open source “appliance” like software stack for our development teams to use to base a number of emerging technology and opportunity areas on. This should yield some interesting developments in the next 24-months.

Of course we get to welcome the KACE team to Dell. Kace bring client side and OS management appliances into our growing customer solutions portfolio. Given their products are specifically focussed on client side management they are a great fit, I’ve not had any involvement with the team yet, but am looking forward to our first meeting to review our appliance development plans.

Bastrop State Park Ride

Riding in Bastrop State Park

I had the opportunity to cycle with Michael Dell prior to the 2010 Dell World Wide Executive meeting, and this was I think the only point I was smiling. Michael rode at a fair pace around the hilly 24-miles we did in Bastrop State Park, and it was the prelude to an exciting meeting where Michael and the team took us through the Dell Transformation, which will again give us the opportunity to focus around some key and core values.

The reason I jumped back on the blog though was that early this morning I got to go look at the latest additions to the PowerEdge 11g server line. The official web site is here and the press release with specific details, here. I was specifically impressed with the PowerEdge R310, which is a 1-socket, 1U server aimed at helping small and medium businesses grow and thrive. It includes Dell’s embedded Lifecycle Controller along with state-of-the-art serviceability and diagnostics with optional interactive LCD. Other features include:

  • RAID configurations to help increase data reliability and/or increase I/O;
  • Choices in operating systems for diverse computing workloads, including Microsoft Windows, Red Hat, Novell SUSE, VMware XenServer and Solaris
  • Energy-optimized technologies, including lower wattage power supplies.

If vou found your way here for the first time via a search engine and want to know more about our embedded management and Systems Management strategy, here is a great starting point in PDF format.

Next up is building out on our Efficient Enterprise strategy, with more details on workload composition and automation.

IBM update on Power 7

For those interested, IBM has apparently revealed some details on the upcoming Power 7 processors. Gordon Haff an analyst has written two blog entries on aspects of the disclosure meeting. The first on the size, capacity, performance and the second, on the design, threading and cache etc. Nice to see Gordon picked up on x86 Transitive, no word on any new developments though.

I suspect that given the state of the industry now, the Power Systems folks are feeling pretty pleased with the decisions we made on the threading design and processor threading requirements almost over two years ago, no point in chasing rocks if you have virtualization. Best not rest on your laurels though guys. You’ve got some really significant software pricing issues to deal with, and it will be interesting to see if you took my advice on an intentional architecture for the Power server platform management.

In a interesting, karmic sort of way, I’m doing an “Avoiding Accidental Architecture” pitch here at Dell this afternoon, I’ll be using the current Power 6 state of affairs as a good, or rather bad example. Thanks as always to Tom Maguire of EMC, and Grady Booch at IBM for the architecture meme.

Dell Management Console and 11G Server Launch

I spent Friday afternoon in a wet Round Rock parking lot where we held the launch thank you party for the team that put together the 11th Generation of Dell servers and the associated management software. We don’t complain about rain in Austin, it feeds some of the best things about town, namely Barton Springs, Lake Travis, which feeds Town Lake where I run, and the lake at Pure Austin North where I swim, in perfect conditions, twice per week. The celebration was sponsored by our partner Broadcom.

The event was hosted by our executives, including Michael Dell, and they made some important observations on the process to design the servers, market acceptance and customer feedback. While I was waiting in the food line, one the other folks and I got talking, he said “I looked at your blog the other day and you didn’t write anything on the Dell Management Console”. And he’s right.

It’s a significant step forward for Dell customers and for Dell. The DMC is based on the modular Symantec Management Platform architecture and offers a comprehensive set of features at no additional cost. While I was in IBM Power Systems, one of the fights I had with them was over their console and management strategy. While I’m sure they had good reasons the way they did, what they did, their ongoing strategy couldn’t follow the same path of fragmented consoles for this, consoles for that, different interfaces, different terminology for the same things etc. I’m hopeful still that when they introduce their next generation of servers, they’ll have learned the lessons that Dell already has.

DMC replaces the existing Dell hardware management console, Dell OpenManage IT Assistant. DMC has a plug-in architecture that allows the console to be extended with additional function and to be used as a manager for other scenarios, devices etc. However, true to the Dell mission to simply IT, Reduce TCO and one way we are doing that is to included a significant amount of function in the base, rather than as chargeable plugins. Here’s a summary of the major functions and improvements over prior offerings:

  • Hardware – multiple choices on how to explore, report and understand hardware configs plus export as tables; many pre-configured reports asd well as the ability to create your own.

    Proactive heartbeat monitoring is also supported, based on a user defined schedule; event suscription is also supported for Dell servers and MIBs can be imported for non-Dell hardware.

    You can push config changes and agent, BIOS, driver and firmware patches to many servers simultaneously without scripting.

  • Security – you can group devices and servers by geographical, logical, organisztional or type, or create your own. These can then be managed using role based secuity. You can create your own roles, or import them from Microsoft Active Directory.
  • Software – Support for hypervisors such as VMware(r) ESXi as well as Microsoft and Citrix. Health monitoring, discovery of virtual machines, associate to physical host server etc. Also included is the normal OS monitoring of utilization for memory, processors, free space and I/O.
  • Networking – The console includes support for a broad range of devices, but also includes support for Fibre Channel switches.

Thats an outline of the support in the new Dell Management Console, powered by Altiris from Symantec. I went to look for a couple of white papers to include links for. One with a more detailed list of device support and a second with a more comprehensive strategy that showed the plug-in architecture and the other function available for DMC. I came across this great resource, the Dell POWER Solutions magazine(just a hint of irony).

Here is a link where you can download the entire magazine, as a 21Mb PDF file. Alternatively, here is a link for an index into the articles where you can review each article seperately.

Use cases for management/consoles

I think I’ve got a pretty good idea how people use consoles and do management for large centralised servers either UNIX or Mainframe based. What I’m quickly learning is that while I can speculate on how organisations would do management and use consoles for x86 servers, there doesn’t seem to be a concensus, or many clear use cases.

As you’ll see in the coming weeks, Dell have worked with partners to come up with some pretty compelling technologies in the management space, and especially in consoles. I can’t claim to have had anything to do with those. However, we are now on the road to make some pretty important decisions on where we go next, what technologies we use, especially in standards, and how we tie a number of the existing threads and product offerings together.

I worked on a similar decision while at IBM, it turned into a pretty vigorous and fractious debate, but unless things have changed since December, they’ll be implementing the broad outline as part of their Power 7 Server rollout.

Now, I could just get Dell lined up to do the same thing. Only I don’t think that would be right for Dell customers, and specifically around x86 rack and row management, and even probably down at the Small business level, although perversly, the proposal for IBM Power would have a lot on interest for SMB customers, but for a whole different set of reasons.

First thing this morning I got invited to listen to AG Lafley, the P&G CEO who is also a member of the Dell board of Directors. He made some interesting observations about being customer driven, it was a refreshing reminder.

So, rather than develop some “best effort” use cases for server management internally, I’d like your help. Would you be willing to send me a chart or diagram that shows how you manage your servers and how you use consoles? I’d like to know how many servers per consolve, connectivity between console and server(s), speed of connection, location of any firewalls etc. How many people need access to the console and so on. Mostly initially though I’m looking for some schematics that show the console, the servers, connectivity, placement of firewalls, secure zones etc.

Feel free to leave a comment here, I’ll email you directly or you can send any questions or diagrams to mark_cathcart at dell dot com .

Dell OpenManage and Dell Managment Console

Not sure how many Dell customers I have for my blog yet since it’s early days, but I just learned from Scott Hanson SystemEdge blog on Direct2Dell that tomorrow, Thursday Jan. 29th at omswebcast11am (central) time, our Executive Briefing center are going to do an hour long demo of the Dell OpenManage  platform management and the shortterm roadmap, as well upcoming Dell Management Console (DMC).

The demo will be rerun a number of times this year, so I know its late notice for Thursday, but you can go here to sign-up for any of the events. The web conferences will use Microsoft Livemeeting.

I’d be really interested in any feedback on OpenManage and DMC. While one of my short term focus items is on the platform and firmware management and structure for the 11g server platform, I’m looking at the longer term 12g platforms, especially their integration with other Dell platforms like EqualLogic but also increasingly partner management platform like EMC, Microsoft and Cisco etc.

If you have any colleagues who work in operations, networking or storage in the x86 space, please pass the link along, and ask them if they have time to leave comments here. Thanks!

About & Contact

I'm Mark Cathcart, formally a Senior Distinguished Engineer, in Dells Software Group; before that Director of Systems Engineering in the Enterprise Solutions Group at Dell. Prior to that, I was IBM Distinguished Engineer and member of the IBM Academy of Technology. I am a Fellow of the British Computer Society ( I'm an information technology optimist.

I was a member of the Linux Foundation Core Infrastructure Initiative Steering committee. Read more about it here.

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