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A Look at Infrastructure Management Industry Leaders

Get a quick overview of the top three infrastructure management solutions and how they solve infrastructure management challenges.

April 23, 2020 9 minute read

Information and data permeate every facet of today’s world. Similarly, those in various areas of the Information Technology (IT) field are required to manage and understand a large amount of information. One of these areas is IT infrastructure, which includes policies, procedures, processes, data, personnel and equipment. 

Introduction to infrastructure management

Simply put, IT infrastructure is the very foundation of IT operations. One question often asked is, how can the many elements of IT infrastructure be managed in the most efficient and effective way? This is where IM comes into play. 

At WWT, the three original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that emerge as industry leaders in infrastructure management (IM) are Cisco, Dell and HPE. WWT considers these OEMs to be top players in the IM arena based on scope and quantity of proof of concepts (POCs) performed in the Advanced Technology Center (ATC).  

This article is designed to offer a quick peak into what each OEM is doing as they strive for a single IM platform across their hardware and software components, as well as how we can be of assistance to customers and partners with their IM needs.

Cisco: UCS Manager and Intersight

Cisco currently has two IM platforms: which are Unified Computing System (UCS) Manager and Cisco Intersight. Cisco’s UCS Manager is best suited for a fabric interconnect (FI) connected compute environment. Cisco Intersight, on the other hand, is used primarily for managing and maintaining Cisco’s stand-alone C-Series product line, which includes HyperFlex (Cisco HX). 

Cisco UCS Manager and Intersight hardware

Cisco came to the IM market in 2009 with a unique, Java-based single pane of glass called UCS Manager. This was also their first endeavor into the server infrastructure market with the B200 chassis/blade product line. With the introduction of UCS Manager and its related concepts, it proved to be a major success for Cisco.  

Since then, UCS Manager’s evolution has included many versions, with major enhancements occurring every couple of years. Version 3.x moved away from the Java-based console to a more fluid and compatible HTML 5. Currently, Cisco is on version 4.x for its UCS Manager. You can find a full list of UCS Manager’s versions on Cisco's site.

UCS Manager is not a standalone appliance or a virtual machine. Rather, it's a service that runs inside the FI pair. UCS Manager is redundant by design, running on both FI “A” and FI “B” simultaneously in a primary/subordinate configuration.  

UCS Manager for a FI connected domain is responsible for the creation and deployment of the blade and rack mount infrastructure connected southbound. This management tool has the ability to swiftly deploy multiple servers by utilizing Service Profiles. These Service Profiles are comprised of Pools, Policies and Templates.  

When everything is working together, Service Profiles make deploying and managing servers fast and efficient. A great example of this cohesiveness is called an Updating Template, which is attached to many Service Profiles. When this Updating Template is modified, it propagates the changes to all the servers associated, resulting in the mitigation of any configuration drifts that may occur without their use.

The snapshot below shows a chassis/blade system using UCS Manager.

chassis/blade system UCS Manager

In 2012, Cisco acquired the cloud-based Wi-Fi networking and security device start-up company called Meraki. With the great success of this cloud-based model, Cisco decided to apply this same approach to their IM product line. Thus, Cisco Intersight was born in 2017.  

As a result, Cisco Intersight is a cloud-based offering that manages stand-alone UCS C-Series servers and Cisco’s Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI). Essentially, the UCS Manager’s concept of utilizing policies and templates is also used within Cisco Intersight. However, Cisco Intersight also offers a Master Template which can be employed to manage anywhere from one to several standalone rack servers. When changes occur to the Master Template, or the policies within, the changes will be applied to all the servers connected to it. 

The below screenshot is of Cisco Intersight’s widget-based dashboard. 

Cisco Intersight widget dashboard

Today’s environments realistically necessitate the use of both consoles in effectively managing dispersed rack mounts and FI connected blade systems. At some point in the near future, though, UCS Manager and Cisco Intersight will merge to offer a cloud-based and/or an on-premise management platform. This consolidation will be fully customizable through the use of widgets and metadata tagging. Additionally, the combined consoles will provide management of all of Cisco’s compute products including HyperFlex, rack mounts and storage and blade servers in the cloud.

Dell Technologies: OpenManage Enterprise

Dell Technologies’ premier IM solution is called OpenManage Enterprise. Dell’s original IM platform, OpenManage Essentials, was released in February of 2012. The purpose of OpenManage Essentials’ development was aimed at assisting systems administrators in managing their Dell PowerEdge 11G infrastructure.  

OpenManage Essentials, which requires a SQL database for installation, delivers a central point of access console. This one-to-many management tool brings together several isolated solutions, such as OpenManage Server Administrator, OpenManage Network Manager, OpenManage IT Assistant and OpenManage Server Update Utility, by utilizing a single pane of glass. OpenManage Essentials leverages Dell’s lights-out management card, better known as the Integrated Dell Remote Access Controller (iDRAC), which is now on its 9th release.  

With each new release of Dell’s PowerEdge platform, there are updated features and functionality within the OpenManage Essentials solution and iDRAC card. The last version of Dell’s OpenManage Essentials is 2.5.

Dell OpenManage Essentials

OpenManage Enterprise replaced OpenManage Essentials version 2.5 as Dell’s flagship IM solution in July of 2018, with the rollout of Dell’s PowerEdge 14G product line. OpenManage Enterprise is a single pane of glass, on-premise solution that can be used to update, monitor, maintain and deploy Dell technologies.  

It provides for the systems management and monitoring of up to 8,000 Dell servers, chassis, storage and network switches, as well as third party infrastructure. With the ability to manage so many devices, OpenManage Enterprise also employs an elastic search engine. This intuitive technology allows for the ability to access a specific device or devices in a single, quick search. 

In addition, OpenManage Enterprise offers an updated plugin dashboard, allowing for increased management and the ability for extended growth.

OpenManage Enterprise

While OpenManage Essentials necessitated a SQL database for installation, OpenManage Enterprise has an embedded database for ease of installation. Additionally, OpenManage Enterprise is an HTML5 GUI console that can be deployed as a standalone appliance running as a virtual machine (VM) within VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V or Red Hat virtualization environments.  

OpenManage Enterprise also has a VMware vCenter snap-in component called OpenManage Integration for VMware vCenter (OMIVV). As a result, Dell technologies can be managed from within a vCenter instance. Dell is continually improving OpenManage Enterprise; the most current version is version 3.3.1.

OpenManage Enterprise dashboard

HPE: OneView

HPE’s IM platform is called OneView. OneView has been around since 2013, and over the course of the past 7 years there have been several improvements made to this platform. These enhancements are based on the constantly evolving landscape and the need to continually compliment all of the products in their portfolio.  

HPE OneView Global Dashboard

The current version of OneView is 5.0, with 5.1 to be released in the next few months. A full list of OneView's releases can be found on HPE's site.

To fully grasp OneView’s capabilities, an understanding of how OneView fits into the overall scheme of HPE’s IM software is needed. OneView can potentially offer a bridge between the OneView Global Dashboard and VMware’s vCenter. To understand how all of the segments work together, an overview of each piece will be highlighted separately, starting with OneView itself. 

OneView is deployed as an appliance in either a VMware or Hyper-V environment. Once deployed, this appliance can be used to manage not only servers, but also HPE storage arrays like 3Par, HPE switches and other third party switches (e.g. Cisco). OneView accomplishes this by using Server Profile Templates to link everything together. 

From OneView, Server Profile Templates can be created for both rack mount servers and blade servers. To further show its functionality with HPE hardware, all storage provisioning can be done through OneView as long as an HPE storage array is connected to the same OneView instance. This saves time in deploying all of the HPE Infrastructure. 

The snapshot below is an example of the dashboard seen when logging on to OneView.

OneView dashboard

It is important to note that if Synergy exists in a particular environment, a separate OneView instance will exist as the Composer Appliance installed in the Synergy Frame has its own version of OneView deployed. HPE addresses this potential issue by using the OneView Global Dashboard, which allows for the linking of OneView appliances into a single pane of glass.

A second component of HPE’s IM software is OneView Global Dashboard. The Global Dashboard is the single pane of glass that links all other OneView instances together. What does that mean? A OneView instance that is just Synergy can coexist with a OneView instance that only handles rackmounts and C7000s. Not only can OneView instances be connected into Global Dashboard, but a Simplivity HCI vCenter can be connected as well. As a result, HPE’s HCI, storage and compute can all be viewed and managed in a single pane of glass.

The below screenshot is an example of the Global Dashboard. For simplicity and ease-of-use, HPE has made the layout for Global Dashboard and OneView the same.

HPE Global Dashboard

The third and final component of HPE’s IM software is OneView plug-in for vCenter. vCenter is a separate Open Virtualization Appliance or Application (OVA) that can be deployed to manage an ESXi environment. This allows vCenter to be linked to an existing OneView appliance for managment of all VMware ESXi servers.  

When the appliance is linked with vCenter, a new tab will appear (see example below). If HPE Storage is connected to this OneView appliance, compute can be managed through vCenter, as well as storage.

OneView plug-in for vCenter

Take advantage of our IM expertise

Is your organization in the market for an IM platform? Are you still unsure what option is best for your company’s needs? We at WWT are here to help. Our subject matter experts are available to answer your specific questions.  

Additionally, utilizing our state-of-the-art ATC and subject matter experts, you are able to experience each of these OEMs' platforms to determine which is best for your particular environment. The ATC provides you with the unique opportunity of trying before buying. Contact your WWT account team to schedule a POC today, or contact us directly to start the discussion.

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