Thanks to new firmware (v.1.3) released last Thursday, Dell's Lifecycle Controller now works with system management tools from BMC and Microsoft. Most reports that followed Dell's Thursday announcement focused on the speed and capacity of its EqualLogic storage arrays, not on the software used to manage them. While improvements to 10Gb (from 1Gb) and 768TB (from 540TB) are significant, the real news in my humble opinion was again in the software.

"We now have all the drivers for Dell server hardware right on board," said Anthony Dina, director of solutions marketing at Dell. "You don't have to go to the Web, to the CD or anywhere" when using BMC's BladeLogic or Microsoft System Center to deploy and configure PowerEdge servers. The drivers have been present in Dell's own administration tool--Infrastructure Manager--since March. What's new is the integration with third-party tools. "Some operations folks like to deploy servers using BladeLogic or System Center, [and now they] have a faster way of doing it with Dell servers than they did previously." When asked, Dina said Dell currently has no plans to integrate with HP's OpenView.

Infrastructure Manager virtualizes discreet devices such as drives, arrays, RAIDs and controllers into a single virtual storage pool, explained Dell senior manager Travis Vigil. This allows them to be managed as a single entity. "As you grow and put in hardware, EqualLogic firmware virtualizes it across arrays," simplifying administration, optimizing performance by automatically balancing load across different RAID types. The tool now has the the ability to deploy virtual-server images and workloads created with Microsoft or VMware tools. "[Admins] can now be more intelligent about capacity planning and have freedom to move things around as they understand where things need to be from server to server...without using VMware or Microsoft [tools]" Dina said. "Virtualization unlocks efficiency, and the last frontier is balancing capacity in the data center intelligently," he added.