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: Personas in motion
AIM provides a variety of ways to move server personas around the infrastructure, depending on the source and destination of that particular persona. Take a physical server, a Dell PowerEdge R710, running a Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 persona, for example. That particular persona exists on an iSCSI LUN and needs to be booted on another server -- say, an HP ProLiant. Within the GUI, that persona would be shut down, assigned to either a specific ProLiant system or to a pool of ProLiant servers, and then started.

When the start action is made, the controller sinks its hooks into the management processor of the ProLiant and turns the server on. As part of the integration into AIM, the server has been configured to boot from PXE on the management network interface, and proceeds to do so. The controller sees the PXE request and feeds a specific bootstrap shim to the server that causes the necessary MAC address and, if necessary, Fibre Channel WWNN (World Wide Node Name) changes to take place, then reboots the server again.

The subsequent reboot shifts the PXE boot to the iSCSI LUN, and the RHEL5 persona boots on the HP host. With sufficient prep of that persona, the HP OS agents can be present and utilized alongside the Dell tools, VMware tools, Hyper-V tools, and so forth, so that the persona can feel right at home no matter what host it happens to be running on at the moment.

Several layers of network virtualization may come into play here. A virtual NIC controlled by AIM can be presented to each persona and each required network presented to the OS through that conduit. The server OS remains unaware of the underlying hardware changes and simply sees that it has interfaces that are on the right networks.

In other cases, the persona definitely knows that the underlying hardware has changed, as it may have previously booted on an Intel Westmere-based server, and is now running on an AMD Opteron system. Both Linux and Windows will boot gracefully throughout these changes, although Windows is more prone to the occasional hiccup deriving from significant underlying hardware changes between boots.

The Dashboard's Servers view shows all the personas and the physical hosts and hypervisors they're currently running on.
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