InfoWorld review: Dell AIM automates today's data center

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

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Dell AIM: Physical and Virtual views
Using the AIM GUI is simple once you get used to the different views and wrap your head around the constant need to save and confirm any actions you may direct. The two main views are Physical and Virtual. The former shows all the physical servers present and known to the controller, and breaks out virtual servers running on any hypervisors by displaying them within the container for the physical host they reside upon. All known Ethernet switches are displayed as well, as are the various physical links between servers and switches.

Server personas are pictured on each physical or virtual server instance they happen to be running on at the time. Clicking on them reveals relevant information for that persona in a sidebar, while contextual menus allow for common administration tasks to be run from this view.

The Virtual view shows each persona as a block with an icon denoting the OS installed and the name of the persona. Links between the servers across the various AIM-controlled networks are then drawn just as you'd expect, with a VLAN represented as a hub and the spokes heading out to the personas connected to that particular network. As with the Physical view, clicking and right-clicking on the personas permits further information displays and actions that can be performed on the servers.

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The Virtual view of an AIM infrastructure shows server personas and how they're linked to the overall network. Also shown are the various networks defined within the infrastructure.

The key here is that in Virtual view, there's no concept of whether the persona is running on a virtual machine or a physical server, or what particular hypervisor or type of physical server that may be. This is by design, as AIM tries to divorce the concept of a server from any specific piece of hardware or software. It's simply a server instance.

Of course there are other views as well, which are largely informational, such as the event log, and a dashboard view, which can show each rack, the personas currently running on it, as well as statistical overviews of the whole infrastructure.

One element that doesn't exist in AIM itself is provisioning new servers. AIM is strictly focused on managing known resources, not creating new resources. Dell's plan for handling service provisioning is through the use of the new VIS Self-Service Creator. Without Creator, adding servers to an AIM-based infrastructure is left up to the admin. All a server needs to be included in the AIM umbrella is to be discovered by the AIM controller, and this can be accomplished with or without running an agent.

An easy way to make a server discoverable would be to leverage templates or cloning on a virtualization hypervisor. For instance, a VMware server template could be created that contains all the requisite AIM agents, and creating a new VM from that template and booting it up would automatically cause that server persona to be manageable by AIM. Of course, building a physical server and running the AIM agents is also an option.

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The Dashboard's Statistics view shows various infrastructure elements and splits of server types across physical servers and hypervisors.
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