InfoWorld review: Dell AIM automates today's data center

Dell's adaptive infrastructure management framework has something competitors don't: support for heterogeneous hardware

Corralling the myriad physical and virtual servers that exist in IT shops of any size is a daunting task, and management tools that ease the burden are in hot demand. Naturally, all of the big guys are out to win this "adaptive infrastructure management" sweepstakes. HP threw its hat into this ring with HP BladeSystem Matrix in the first half of 2009, and Cisco entered the fray with Cisco UCS later in the year. Now it's Dell's turn.

Like HP and Cisco, Dell has been working on a way to bring all the disparate systems that comprise a data center under a single management umbrella, but with a twist on the HP and Cisco playbooks. The difference is that Dell is trying to remain as vendor-neutral as possible. Largely, it's succeeding.

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Dell's AIM (Advanced Infrastructure Manager) software used to be known by another name: Scalent V/OE (Virtual Operating Environment). (Dell began selling Scalent V/OE under the Dell brand in 2009 and finally acquired the company in July.) I last looked at the Scalent offering four years ago, and much has changed since then. Most significantly, Dell has been busy leveraging the Scalent solution throughout its hardware line, including its PowerConnect switches and EqualLogic iSCSI storage arrays. But Dell has also kept the hardware agnosticism of V/OE alive, which is a key differentiator to its main competition.

Whereas HP and Cisco are limited to their own servers, blade chassis, and switches, Dell's AIM can handle a wide variety of vendors at every level of the solution, from servers to Ethernet switches to storage arrays. Deploying HP BladeSystem Matrix or Cisco UCS requires the purchase and installation of their gear, but you can introduce AIM into an existing infrastructure comprising Dell, HP, IBM, Cisco, and other hardware. Not all AIM features are available across all vendors, and some tasks may require a degree of human interaction, but in most cases the main needs are met.

In a nutshell, it's possible to have a completely automated infrastructure using all Dell gear, or a nearly completely automated infrastructure using an array of hardware from other vendors. Either way, it's an impressive value proposition.

Dell AIM: Tale of the test
Like its HP and Cisco counterparts, Dell AIM has been built to turn all the knobs and flip all the switches necessary to deploy, migrate, extend, expand, repurpose, and recover a server infrastructure -- physical or virtual -- without the assistance of an administrator. Throughout my testing, I was impressed with the way AIM handled all the curveballs I threw in its direction.

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Test Center Scorecard
 
 20%20%20%20%10%10% 
Dell AIM 3.38999109

8.9

Very Good

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