For those who toil daily within the world of VMware's vCenter management application, new plug-ins and tools that allow for a more seamless interaction with the physical systems beneath virtual infrastructure are generally welcomed with open arms. For those running VMware vSphere on Dell server hardware, there's good news: the Dell Management Plug-In for VMware vCenter.
This tool brings a wealth of Dell hardware management tools right inside the vCenter client. Admins will find a one-stop shop for working on the physical side of their virtual infrastructure without leaving vCenter.
[ Dell's adaptive infrastructure management framework has something competitors don't: support for heterogeneous hardware. See "InfoWorld review: Dell AIM automates today's data center." ]
As with most vCenter plug-ins, the front end of the Dell tool installs in the client and adds a tab to the contextual display. If you select a host in vCenter, for instance, you can click the Dell tab to get a wealth of information on that physical host -- from firmware versions to warranty expiration. You can determine the RAM counts and population, the IP address of the remote access cards, even the current power draw of the server.
There are also tools that apply BIOS and firmware updates to one or more hosts at a time. It's possible to select a group of Dell hosts and determine which BIOS updates are available based on a centralized update catalog and repository. The tool takes care of every aspect of the update, from placing the host into maintenance mode through all necessary reboots. In my limited testing, the BIOS and firmware updates functioned as promised, though one update threw what appeared to be a spurious error, claiming an update failure when none appeared to exist. The host came back up with the proper firmware update applied.
The Dell Management Plug-In also allows you to integrate the server management agent event logs and VMware's event logging, although it's a configurable option. You can thus bring your hardware logging within the same scope as your virtual server infrastructure for a single point of reference.
Naturally, the Dell Management Plug-In tools build on existing tools and technologies, specifically the Dell DRAC (Dell Remote Access Controller) out-of-band management system for Dell servers and blades. Combining tight interaction with the DRAC and a dedicated VM running CentOS that serves as the functional center of the solution, Dell has compressed thankless and repetitious server admin tasks into a few clicks of the mouse. It has also made gathering up-to-date hardware inventory information extremely simple: Just select a VMware host cluster to get an exportable listing of the various hardware and software components of each Dell server.
The cost is quite reasonable too, starting at $299 for three Dell 11G servers and ranging up to $2,999 for 1,000 servers. Older Dell 9G and 10G servers are supported as well, but do not count against the licensed server limits because they do not offer the full range of functions found in the 11G stable.
This story, "Dell server management and VMware vCenter, together at last," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in cloud computing, blade servers, hardware, and virtualization at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.