The Dell Management Plugin for vCenter is a paid product from Dell that allows management of the physical infrastructure through the vSphere Windows Client. It’s a nifty tool that provides a lot of functionality if your environment is Dell only and are either 11G and 12G servers (9G/10G are supported, but have less functionality), and you love doing things through the vSphere Client. In this write-up, I’ll cover the process for deploying a host with the tool, but at the end I’ll cover some of the other neat functionality and general thoughts.Host Deployment
Gather Preliminary Info/Setup
The following information is needed to complete the deployment wizard:
If the host has already been deployed using this tool, it needs to be removed from its connection profile.
If no Connection Profile has been created, one must be created. This profile holds the iDRAC and ESXi Host login credentials. This can be a global profile if all hosts share these credentials, or specific to certain hosts if credentials vary.
1. Open the console, and on the left side is a ‘Connection Profiles’ link. Click it and the ‘Connection Profiles’ subsection will appear.
2. Click ‘Create New’ under ‘Available Profiles’.
3. Fill out the wizard, which will ask for ‘Profile Name’, ‘Associated Hosts’, iDrac Credentials, and ESXi Host Credentials.
If no Hardware Profile has been created, one must be created. This will hold the hardware settings such as: Boot Order, BIOS Settings (Processor Options, etc.), iDRAC Settings, and RAID Configuration. I typically name these profiles after the server model, for example an ‘R620′ profile for hosts that run on PowerEdge R620 servers.
Create Hypervisor Profile
If no Hypervisor Profile has been created, one must be created. This will hold settings that specify which ISO to use, where to place hosts that are created from the profile within vCenter (e.g. Cluster location), and a Host Profile to apply if one is available. I typically name these profiles based on their Datacenter and the ESXi version, for example ‘DatacenterX ESXi 5.1′. It is useful to create these per Datacenter as you can specify an ISO that is local to the hosts.
If no Deployment Template has been created, one must be created. This template is essentially the combination of a Hardware Profile and a Hypervisor Profile. I typically name these based on the combination of the hardware and hypervisor profile names, for example ‘DatacenterX R620 ESXI 5.1′.
The deployment wizard will walk through the steps to actually deploy the host based on the previous templates and profiles.
The plugin will now go through the process of rebooting the server, applying the hardware profile settings, installing ESXi, joining the host to vCenter, attaching the host profile, and putting the host into maintenance mode. All of this can be watched by browsing to the iDRAC and viewing the console. Once ESXi is installed, the tasks for adding it to vCenter and doing an inventory task will also show up in the Recent Tasks pane:
At this point, the host should be all setup and just needs the host profile applied, any special post-install configuration options, and it is good to go. It also now has all the benefits of being configured into the plugin, such as…Other Features
I will admit I was skeptical of paying $100/host at first, but can be bundled into your hardware purchases and whatnot. Personally, I’d love to see it as a free tool (similar to their Equallogic plugin) but the price isn’t too painful, and I’m sure your friendly Dell Account Executive will be happy to help there.
Additionally, the tool (as of writing this) does not integrate with the vSphere Web Client. Supposedly, this is in the works and they are certainly not the only tool to not integrate with it quite yet. One of the downsides of plugins in the Windows vSphere Client is that the panels can be cramped inside the window, and this plugin has those same issues with the ‘Next’ buttons being hidden in the bottom right of the window if the screen resolution is too low.
Those issues aside, the tool is actually a good way to ensure host build standardization and provides lots of neat functionality within vCenter. Some of the simpler things are features that I enjoy the most, like the ability to launch the iDRAC remote console and directly managing/monitoring warranty info. There’s also some real meat to the product with the deployment wizard, firmware updates, and Dell-specific alarms. If you can spare the money (or bundle it into the hardware purchase), it’s definitely worth deploying.