Dell OpenManage Integration for VMware vCenter Review

Deploying vSphere Hosts with Dell’s Management Plugin for vCenter


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:

  1. iDRAC IP
  2. Host Management IP (DHCP can be used and switched later, but it is more time consuming)
  3. DNS Information
Remove Host from Connection Profile (If Applicable)

If the host has already been deployed using this tool, it needs to be removed from its connection profile.

  1. Open the console, and on the left side is a ‘Connection Profiles’ link. Click it and the ‘Connection Profiles’ subsection will appear.
  2. Browse to the ‘Connection Profile’ that the host is associated with, and click ‘View/Edit’.
  3. On the left side, click ‘Associated Hosts’ and then click ‘Edit’ in the top right. Browse to the hosts location and uncheck them, then click Save.
Create 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.

Create Hardware Profile

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.

  1. Expand the ‘Deployment’ link on the left hand side of the console and then expand ‘Deployment Templates’. Click ‘Hardware Profiles’.
  2. Click ‘Create New’ under ‘Available Profiles’.
  3. Fill out the wizard, which will ask for ‘Profile Name’, and then allow you to select a ‘Reference Server’ to base the settings for all hosts in this profile.
  4. All of the inherited settings from the ‘Reference Server’ can be modified or excluded.

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.

  1. Expand the ‘Deployment’ link on the left hand side of the console and then expand ‘Deployment Templates’. Click ‘Hypervisor Profiles’.
  2. Click ‘Create New’ under ‘Available Profiles’.
  3. Fill out the wizard, which will ask for ‘Profile Name’, and then allow you to select a ‘Reference ISO’ and specify ‘vCenter Settings’ for hosts created from this profile.

Create Deployment Template

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′.

  1. Expand the ‘Deployment’ link on the left hand side of the console and then select ‘Deployment Templates’.
  2. Click ‘Create New’ under ‘Available Templates’, and supply a name for the template.
  3. Click ‘Edit’ at the top right of the newly selected template.
  4. Choose a Hardware Profile and a Hypervisor Profile, and save the template.
Use Deployment Wizard

The deployment wizard will walk through the steps to actually deploy the host based on the previous templates and profiles.

  1. Expand the ‘Deployment’ link on the left hand side of the console and then select ‘Deployment Wizard’.
  2. Add servers to deploy by clicking on ‘Add Server’ and then entering iDRAC Credentials, this will pull Service Tag, Model, iDRAC IP, Compliance Status, etc. Select the checkbox next to the added servers, and select Next.
  3. Select a ‘Deployment Template’.
  4. Select Installation Target (Hard Disk or Internal SD).
  5. Enter Server Identification information: Host Name, Management NIC, Networking, DNS, etc.
  6. Assign the servers to a Connection Profile.
  7. Deploy the job or schedule it for later.
  8. The job will be submitted, and will give the option to be taken to the Job Queue.

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
  • Server Management Action Items: Indicator Light On/Off, Launch OMSA, Launch Remote Access

  • Dell Server Management Host Tabs
  • Warranty Monitoring/Information
  • Hardware Component Extended Details
  • Ability to update Firmware through vCenter
  • Power Monitoring
  • Additional Dell-Hardware-specific Alarms
Final Thoughts

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.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
1 Comment
Project Manager at a non-tech company with 10,001+ employeesConsultantTOP REVIEWER

Awesome write up. Now iDRAC has got more control over server after integrating with vSphere.

17 March 14
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