Friday, August 20, 2010

Quit Dealing with Old School Server Management

Server RoomHearing somebody talk about walking up to a server system to install an operating system may sound the same as somebody saying they had to get up and turn the channel on the actual television set instead of using a remote. To many, this concept may seem aged and outdated but it isn't, it is still going on today. It's actually more prevalent than you might think.

Contemporary data centers nowadays brag about high security with retina scanners, powerful magnetic locks and temperatures cold enough to make ice cubes. However, in a lot of cases these systems lack the necessary connectivity to manage all those systems remotely. Thankfully it isn't too late to fix this situation thanks to out-of-band management.

Out-of-band management involves using a dedicated server port connected to an IP network that allows administrators to work with a system regardless of the power state. To put it more simply, out-of-band management allows you to work with a system as if you had physically walked up to the actual console. You can power the system on and off, change BIOS settings and set up RAID devices using this remote management option.

It used to be that you packed up your collection of CDs, floppy disks and your laptop and headed for the data center in search of the needy server system. You would typically waste an hour gaining access to the data center floor and finding the system you needed. It also used to take a few minutes to figure out if the server you were working on was in fact the correct one and if it was cabled correctly.

Once you got started, it would generally take you around three hours, including reboots, to install the OS, patch it, configure it and ready it for remote access through VNC or Terminal Services. It was only after all of this that you could head back to your desk to finish the project that would most likely suck out the rest of your day.

Integrated Lights-out Management (ILOM) removes the need to walk to and physically touch every server system in the building. ILOM provides an integrated, free and powerful management method. ILOM comes standard with most contemporary racked and blade systems and delivers remote keyboard, video and mouse. This allows you to completely manage your system from power up, through the whole boot sequence and into the operating system.

Setting up ILOM is pretty simple although it does require a slight bit of planning. You will have to decide on a static or dynamic IP addressing for the service and if the ILOM network will be isolated or open. A static IP address requires more setup and more management but does have the advantage of having the IP address tied to a specific system for the life of that system. Dynamic addressing requires less management and setup on the system side, however, you will need a server dedicated to assign and track those dynamic addresses.

An isolated ILOM network prevents any unwanted connections by anybody who is not an administrator. If you isolate your ILOM network, it will also prevent IP addressing confusion with primary production, secondary production or backup interfaces. Data center management should only require the configuration of your server's built-in ILOM ports, so save yourself the physical trouble and get integrated lights-out management.

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