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: A long way to the top
While the end result is quite impressive, it's important to note the realities of converting an existing infrastructure for use with AIM. To put it simply, it's a lengthy process.

Each switch, storage array, physical server, and virtual server in the pre-AIM environment must be discovered by the AIM controller. For switches and storage gear, this is handled by configuring the AIM controller with the IP and authentication information for each of these devices. For existing physical and virtual servers, it means defining the management processor IP, type, and authentication, and providing the same pathways to the virtualization solution management tools.

That's the easy part. The hard part is getting all of the existing physical and virtual servers into AIM. This is a manual step that must be done for each server, physical or virtual.

As with many admin tasks, it's easier on Linux. A Linux server can be turned into a persona by installing a few RPMs and running a script, assuming that the destination LUN has been presented to the server already. The script creates the file system on the LUN and copies everything over. Once that's done, the server exists in AIM as a persona and the physical incarnation can be turned off. Generally, this conversion can be scripted rather easily.

On Windows, creating a persona from a server requires downtime. The server must be booted from a Windows PE-based conversion tool that can then be used to mount an existing LUN or to create the LUN if the destination storage array is a Dell EqualLogic box. Following the LUN creation, definition, and mounting, the tool then copies the server over to the new LUN and inserts the required drivers into the system on the fly. After the conversion process is done, the server exists as a persona in AIM and can be assigned to a physical resource and brought back online.

Dell expects that its customers will require the assistance of Dell engineers to get the solution up and running from scratch, with a handoff to IT admins somewhere down the line. However, the company also thinks it's feasible to automate and streamline the installation process in the future.

As with any data center automation solution, AIM will require a substantial up-front investment, both in terms of budget (the solution starts at $1,810 per socket) and effort. Once you're past that hurdle, a solution such as AIM will significantly improve day-to-day operations of the data center. After all, that's the goal. The only question is whether it's time to take the plunge.

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This story, "InfoWorld review: Dell AIM automates today's data centers," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in cloud computing, blade servers, hardware, and virtualization at InfoWorld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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