In this three-part series I’m going to dive into the Dell Management Plug-In for VMware vCenter. In the last couple of months, I have used the Dell Management Plug-In for VMware vCenter (DMPVV) in a PoC/pilot environment. I wanted to share my experiences with you.

Today, we’re starting with an introduction to the tool and how to install/configure the appliance. Along the way, I will show how I use this tool to manage my physical environment.

Introduction

First off, what is the DMPVV?

The Dell Management Plug-in for VMware vCenter is designed to streamline the management processes in your datacenter environment by allowing you to use VMware vCenter to manage your entire infrastructure- both physical and virtual. From firmware updates to bare metal deployment, the Dell Management Plug-In for VMware vCenter will expand and enrich your datacenter management experience with Dell PowerEdge servers.

So, this tool provides a way to monitor, manage and provision physical servers from within vCenter, integrating it not only by using the same interface (the vSphere Client), but also extracting information from vCenter and correlating it with information from the iDRAC and Lifecycle controllers. Because of this integration, you can update a new host with current BIOS and other firmware versions, configure hardware components (like the BIOS and iDRAC) and install a hypervisor. Last but not least, you can clone configuration from one server to another (using, among other technologies, VMware’s Host Profiles). Once installed and configured, you can get an overview from each server, displaying stuff like asset and warranty information, health status and much more.

One of the coolest features I want to highlight is the PXE-less provisioning of the hypervisor to a physical server. This uses a combination of the Lifecycle Controller and iDRAC to deploy an installation ISO to the server. And since it is really tightly integrated with the VMware stack, the host is added to vCenter and configured using Host Profiles automatically, resulting in a true zero-touch deployment of a server. How cool!

Recently, Dell released version 1.0.1.72, which includes a trial version. See what’s new here, or discuss about the DMPVV here. Real release notes are found in the documentation section. Any questions might be answered in the FAQ.

Let’s take a look at the architecture view (taken from the Quick Install Guide):

Basically, the DMPVV is a virtual appliance registered as an extension against vCenter and a Plug-in for the vSphere Client. The appliance in fact does all the work, communicating with the physical servers, providing provisioning services, acting as a staging area for firmware/BIOS downloads from the Dell Online Repository, etc.

In a little more detail (taken from here):

Pricing

Licensing is per-server. Just figure out what number of servers you want to manage and choose a licensing package. One warning: 9G and 10G servers don’t consume a license; they’re missing the Lifecycle Controller and can’t take full advantage of the DMPVV’s features.

  • 3 servers, $299 (about $100 per server); use this if you have a vSphere Essentials (vCenter Foundation) license.
  • 10 servers, $799 (about $80 per server)
  • 50 servers, $1799 (about $36 per server)
  • 1000 servers, $2999 (about $3 per server)

To my knowledge, Dell doesn’t let you use multiple licenses at the same time. Make sure the license package is for a greater number of servers than you want to manage. For instance, if I have 20 servers, I can’t use two 10-pack licenses (which would be $201 cheaper than the 50-pack). I need to choose the 50-pack.

Prerequisites

  • Before you dive into the appliance, make sure you have the latest version of the OpenManage Agent (6.5 at the time of writing) installed on your hosts. If you don’t, install it using the VIB and Update Manager. Configure the OMSA Agent to send SNMP Traps. Here’s how to do that. If you’re stuck (the DMPVV telling you that OMSA isn’t installed) set the ESXi advanced option CIMoemProviderEnabled and reboot.
  • Make sure you have a DHCP-server inside the network you’re provisioning servers in.
  • Administrative accounts on the vCenter Server, ESXi-hosts and iDRAC interfaces.
  • Adobe Flash 10.0 on the client system.
  • Internet Explorer 7 or 8 (without any proxy configured).
  • Have a OpenManage OMSA Web Server component installed somewhere. I installed it on my physical back-up server.

Deploy the Virtual Appliance

Download the virtual appliance (trial version, valid for one vCenter and one host) and extract the bits somewhere safe. Now, open the vSphere Client and go for ‘Deploy OVF Template’. The wizard asks a couple of questions, but I’m not going over those bit by bit. Just make sure to answer these questions accordingly to fit the appliance into your virtual infrastructure. I chose a thin provisioned disk and attached the appliance to my Management VLAN. Power it on after deployment and switch to the VM’s console. Log in using ‘admin’ and set a password. While you’re in there, set the IP- and DNS-settings and configure the Time Zone. Make sure to tick ‘System Clock uses UTC’.

Admin Portal

Open your browser and go to https:///DellAdminPortal/index.html. Log in using the password you’ve just set.

First up is registering the appliance with a vCenter Server. For simplicity sake, please make sure to register using the vCenter hostname. While you’re at it, upload a license file (.bin) if you have one and check for updates (‘Update Virtual Appliance’ in the Appliance Management category). Time synchronization is important as ever in this appliance, so make sure to configure NTP settings.

The last order of business in the Admin Portal is to configure a back-up schedule. You’ll need to have a Windows Share and corresponding credentials and set a schedule. In version 1.0.1.72, I found a bug where the “Time for Backup” field was set back four hours: I set the time to 20:00, but after a refresh of the page it showed 16:00. This seems to be a cosmetic bug only, as the backup was indeed done at 20:00 sharp.

Dell Management Center Configuration Wizard

Inside the vSphere client, you’ll now find a ‘Dell Management Center’ button. You’ll be welcomed by a Configuration Wizard once you venture into the unknown.

As this wizard is helping you along there are some things to be aware of:

  • You’ll need both the iDRAC and the ESXi root credentials to successfully create a connection profile.
  • Be sure to tick the ‘Enable Alarms for Dell Hosts’ box, this will tightly integrate hardware monitoring into vCenter, enabling stuff like putting a host in maintenance mode if a critical alarm is received.
  • If you are running a proxy inside you network, I strongly recommend disabling it for the DMPVV or making it completely transparent (i.e. without settings on the server/client).
  • You’ll need a Staging Folder in order for the Firmware Repository to work (as long as you’re using the default firmware update repository). I’ve created a simple file share (\vc01dmpvv) for this purpose. I store my DMPVV backups here as well. Please make sure you use IP-addresses to point to the share (\10.10.10.10 instead of \vc01).
  • When asked for the OpenManage Server Administrator Web Server URL, I used “https://bck01:1311/servlet/Login?omacmd=getlogin&page=Login&managedws=true#”. This is the link for ‘Manage Remote Node’ on a Web Server-enabled installation of OMSA on a physical Windows server. You could install the OMSA Web Server on your virtual vCenter Server, too, if you don’t have a physical server with the OMSA Web Server.

Miscellaneous Configuration Remarks

  • Don’t worry if the OMSA Web Server URL looks truncated. It’s a known bug; your URL is safe and sound.
  • I enabled the ProActive Systems Management feature. I’m not quite sure what it does; but enabling it only shows a login page in the Hosts view.
  • I did enable the Warranty Expiration Notification. Especially for larger environments, receiving a notification well before warranty expires can really ease the process of renewal.
  • Make sure that both the inventory and warranty data retrieval tasks have been executed manually once. This ensures consistent operation of the DMPVV after configuration. You can fire off both tasks from the Job Queue window.

Concluding this post

In this post, I’ve explained what the tool is for and how it is installed and configured. In an upcoming post, I’ll show you how to create the various profiles and templates, how to check up on an individual server and how to upgrade the firmware on a server. Stay tuned!