Breakthrough efficiency gains through systems management innovation
Simple, efficient systems management is now a far-reaching business imperative, as decision makers look to increase productivity and reduce the operational costs of managing complex, geographically dispersed IT environments.
One way to manage critical IT resources is through deploying systems management software agents. However, the task of installing, testing and maintaining these agents is time-consuming for IT staff. In addition, software agents that run on the server consume precious processor cycles.
A leading-edge approach championed by Dell is to build intelligence right into the hardware. The Dell OpenManage systems management portfolio provided the industry’s first introduction to embedded server management with 11th-generation Dell PowerEdge servers. In developing the latest version of OpenManage, Dell has incorporated input from customers and other stakeholders on ways to topple long-standing efficiency and productivity barriers. To that end, enhancements to OpenManage enable IT professionals to manage infrastructure hardware from mobile devices and implement automated, policy-based operations.
Dell OpenManage Essentials helps automate hardware monitoring and support through integration with the Dell SupportAssist proactive remote support service to accelerate time to resolution for IT problems.
Maximizing IT resources
Continuous availability of the IT infrastructure is a topmost concern. To assure business continuity, critical hardware, data and applications must be continuously and effectively backed up and protected. Also, IT staff must be able to rapidly identify and resolve events that could compromise the performance of data center systems. When issues occur, IT staff needs to determine the severity and come to a quick resolution. But today, responsibilities often don’t end on the clock or in the office. The IT team is on the move and cannot depend on being in the data center to monitor and manage systems.
Furthermore, servers and applications are expected to be provisioned and in production within minutes, not hours or days. Any delay can hurt time to market and interrupt revenue flow. Enterprises can no longer afford the time for IT staff to perform the multitude of steps traditionally required to configure and optimize servers for particular workloads. In addition, repetitive management and maintenance tasks can consume hours of IT staff time that could be better devoted to advancing business interests.
Dell’s distinctive approach to IT management addresses these challenges through agent-free embedded server management, automated and replicable processes, and the ability to manage the data center anytime, anywhere from a mobile device. These capabilities are designed to nondisruptively deliver innovations that help simplify management tasks across Dell enterprise platforms in multi-hypervisor and OS environments.
Exploring embedded management technologies
The latest OpenManage enhancements build on key elements of the OpenManage systems management portfolio. By keeping a consistent management environment across server generations, OpenManage enables administrators to continue using familiar tools and maintain productivity. Together, these elements provide a robust set of management functions that IT organizations can leverage for essential lifecycle management tasks: deployment, updates, monitoring and maintenance of IT infrastructure.
iDRAC with Lifecycle Controller
Built into Dell PowerEdge servers is the Integrated Dell Remote Access Controller (iDRAC) with Lifecycle Controller. Available at power on, iDRAC provides the intelligence to help deploy, update, monitor and maintain multiple generations of Dell servers — without the need for additional software to be installed. Because it is embedded in the server at the factory, iDRAC works independently of the OS or hypervisor to manage the server lifecycle.
With powerful, easy-to-use remote management and configuration options, iDRAC with Lifecycle Controller alerts administrators when an issue occurs, streamlines local and remote server management, and avoids the need for administrators to physically visit the server — even if the server is not operational. An integral part of iDRAC is the Lifecycle Controller, a collection of out-of-band automation services, embedded pre-OS applications and remote interfaces that enable deployment, update, monitoring and maintenance capabilities. (For more information, see the sidebar, “Expediting systems management.”)
Dell OpenManage Essentials
Another important component of the Dell systems management portfolio is Dell OpenManage Essent ials, a one-to-many console designed to simplify common hardware management tasks. Simple to install and maintain, OpenManage Essentials is optimized for use by IT generalists. The agent-free functionality of iDRAC with Lifecycle Controller is integrated with OpenManage Essentials, enabling administrators to monitor PowerEdge servers and update their BIOS, firmware and drivers without installing software agents.
OpenManage Essentials also provides monitoring capability for Dell storage arrays, networking devices and business clients — as well as Dell SonicWALL firewall appliances in the latest OpenManage Essentials v1.3 release. Storage and networking device updates are performed through the console’s link-and-launch access to the respective domain element managers. OpenManage Essentials also provides automated case generation and data collection for remote technical support through the Dell SupportAssist plug-in.
OpenManage Essentials v1.3 introduces several other enhancements, including support for the latest-generation server platforms such as PowerEdge VRTX and PowerEdge R920. Integration with Dell AppAssure software has been added to enable scheduling and control of end-to-end system backups through the OpenManage Essentials console.
Another key enhancement is the enablement of the Dell OpenManage Mobile application, which lets administrators on the move monitor and control servers. And support for application programming interfaces (APIs) allows organizations to easily integrate OpenManage Essentials data into their own management processes and export that data to create customized reports.
Chassis Management Controller
The Chassis Management Controller (CMC) is a systems management component designed for one-to-many management of modular and converged hardware, such as the PowerEdge M1000e chassis and the PowerEdge VRTX shared infrastructure platform. It provides a browser-based interface that enables administrators to take inventory, perform configuration and monitoring tasks, power on or off blade servers or server nodes, and enable alerts for events on servers and components in the chassis.
Integration with third-party software
To further enhance IT management simplicity and consistency, the one-to-many lifecycle management functionality of iDRAC with Lifecycle Controller is integrated with Microsoft® System Center, VMware® vCenter™, BMC® ProactiveNet Performance Management and BMC BladeLogic software. Monitoring functionality of iDRAC with Lifecycle Controller is leveraged within Oracle® Enterprise Manager as well as Nagios® open-source systems management software. These integrations and connections enable IT administrators to perform agent-free operations using existing management tools.
Delivering on the three touchstones of effective systems management
The Dell approach to systems management is based on three key tenets: simplicity, efficiency and availability. Low-touch processes and mobile access help simplify management, automated policy-based operations enhance efficiency, and fail-safe backup features are designed to increase system availability. This approach enables enterprises to accelerate productivity gains and cost-savings while optimizing system uptime.
OpenManage tools are designed to deliver an unprecedented level of simplicity in systems management. For example, system deployment, once a time-consuming and error-prone task, can now be accomplished with exacting precision in approximately half the time previously needed, by using enhanced profile-based XML templates to send validated configurations to multiple servers. Configurations can be developed, tested and validated for specific workloads and then deployed based on IT policy through automatic server self-identification, discovery and installation.
Administrators can manage Dell hardware with fewer tools that provide more functionality than before. OpenManage Mobile provides access anywhere, anytime from mobile devices based on the Google® Android™ platform. And enhancements to OpenManage Essentials and OpenManage Mobile include easy-to-use, intuitive interfaces and navigation, with actionable alerts and data available in selectable and personalized dashboard views.
OpenManage brings efficiency to infrastructure management by enabling organizations to automate essential lifecycle management tasks with policy-based controls and XML profile replication for fast time to system productivity. Using iDRAC with Lifecycle Controller, organizations can perform comprehensive remote management, scheduled updates and firmware rollbacks.
OpenManage Mobile enablement extends this efficiency by allowing IT professionals to use their Android devices to monitor and manage IT infrastructure, either one to one through iDRAC with Lifecycle Controller or one to many through OpenManage Essentials. OpenManage Mobile administrators can view a dashboard summary of an individual server and the alert status of components. They also are able to view and monitor numerous data center resources by selecting from multiple dashboard views and customized filtered alerts.
Administrators can also choose and filter the type of alerts they wish to receive, and OpenManage Mobile can then notify administrators — wherever they may be — when IT services are needed. This anytime, anywhere access to the data center helps increase IT efficiency and productivity (see figure).
Problem-solving on the go: OpenManage Mobile for anytime, anywhere access to IT resources
The continuity of a business is only as good as the health of its systems and its backup capabilities. For that reason, the OpenManage Essentials console now informs organizations of the health of their Dell SonicWALL firewall appliances and provides link-and-launch integration with Dell AppAssure backup and restore software to protect the viability of systems and data. From the OpenManage Essentials console, administrators can easily implement end-to-end regularly scheduled backups to safeguard server data, including the system reserve partition, operating systems, applications, files and databases.
The embedded iDRAC with Lifecycle Controller enables automated distribution of server updates. Administrators can apply consistent, policy-based updates tailored to minimize downtime and optimize availability. In addition, the Dell OpenManage Plug-in for Oracle Enterprise Manager allows administrators to monitor underlying Dell hardware from within the Oracle console, helping ensure high availability for systems and critical database applications.
Achieving comprehensive control and productivity goals
As organizations grow and IT infrastructure expands to meet business demands, IT decision makers continually look for ways to streamline operations and improve business response. For optimal efficiency, IT administrators must be able to perform management and maintenance tasks as easily and quickly as possible so they can spend more time working on projects that add value to the business.
To enhance IT simplicity, efficiency and availability, the Dell OpenManage systems management portfolio supports embedded server management through low-touch tools and processes, as well as interoperability with third-party systems management consoles. The latest releases of OpenManage Essentials, OpenManage Mobile and iDRAC with Lifecycle Controller help IT administrators gain comprehensive control of Dell hardware as well as uniform management operations for Dell servers in multi-vendor OS and hypervisor environments. The automation of basic IT management tasks enabled by OpenManage leads to reduced risk of operational errors, heightened productivity and preservation of business continuity.
Sandra Hamilton is a product marketing manager for the Dell OpenManage systems management portfolio. She has focused on systems management for more than half of her 20-plus years in the technology industry.
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Dell, AppAssure, OpenManage, PowerEdge and SonicWALL are trademarks of Dell Inc.