Review: Dell blade servers tip the scales

Dell's M1000e blade system wows with novel new blades, improved management, modular I/O, and 40G out the back

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There are also provisions for scheduled hardware inventories and warranty status checks. In addition, the scheduled firmware upgrades can source either a local share or Dell's FTP service for the firmware files to be distributed to the hosts.

The idea is to make this process as seamless as possible, allowing administrators to schedule firmware updates across multiple disparate servers that automate the process of putting a host in maintenance mode (assuming it's a virtualization host), applying the updates, rebooting, and bringing the host back into the cluster. For stand-alone servers, the reboot process is still necessary, but that can be automated as well.

Dell has added a form of multichassis management, in that you can configure the CMC to connect to CMC instances on other chassis and jump to that management console from a single click. This isn't true multichassis management, however; there are no facilities to directly manage multiple chassis from within the same console. But linking the independent management consoles together is a step in the right direction.

Dell also provides direct VMware integration, via a virtual appliance and a plug-in for the vSphere client. The appliance handles the data storage and distribution tasks, and the plug-in allows admins to work within the vSphere client to manage hardware tasks and check various system status elements.

All of this comes via the Dell iDRAC with the base "Express for Blades" license. Unlike the base iDRAC license for rack servers, the base license for blades still permits graphical console access. For years, Dell offered graphical console access via the base iDRAC license, while HP required an advanced license. Now Dell is following HP's lead for rack servers. Fortunately, Dell has left graphical console access under the base iDRAC license for blade servers intact.

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