This post was written by Neil Mhatre, Solutions Engineer for Dell.

In an enterprise datacenter, working with heterogeneous infrastructure-server, storage, network: brings a varied number of challenges in terms of deployment, configuration, management and operations. Dell™ Advanced Infrastructure Manager (AIM) provides rapid workload mobility and recovery management across physical and virtual machines in a data center environment by seamlessly moving workloads and repurposing servers in minutes without storage or network reconfiguration.

Datacenters today are typically designed for running applications on multiple networks, each having different requirements for latency and resiliency. When working with iSCSI SANs it is recommended as a best practice to deploy a separate network for iSCSI SAN traffic from the user Ethernet traffic. Isolating storage traffic improves response times, prevents bottlenecks, minimizes potential performance issues, and enhances security. As a result, for an AIM managed deployment it becomes critical to adhere to storage and network best practices to achieve efficiency, optimal performance, and security of the overall IT infrastructure.

In this context, AIM v3.5.1 has introduced a feature called an iSCSI SAN element that helps us design datacenter LAN topology to comply with network configuration best practices recommended by storage vendors. With this feature, AIM supports hardware iSCSI booting for workloads using a dedicated iSCSI Storage Area Network (SAN) that is separate from the System Control Network (SCN). This network segregation helps to isolate iSCSI traffic from AIM management traffic, thereby achieving optimal performance at the storage subsystem as well providing data security.

Following the network architecture diagram shows how the LAN and the SAN networks get separated by using this new feature in an AIM managed environment.  This network segregation was achieved by creating an iSCSI SAN element inside the AIM Controller. As shown in the figure below, the AIM controller requires a network interface to be configured and wired to the iSCSI network, similarly managed nodes needs to have dedicated NICs connected to iSCSI network for persona boot-up.

The reference architecture that we used in this study comprises of, Dell PowerEdge™ 12th generation servers, Dell EqualLogic™ storage, and Dell PowerConnect™ switches.

The key benefits received from the introduction of this new feature are:

  • Improved security by isolating SCN and iSCSI traffic.
  • Efficient server re-purposing by faster boot from persona.
  • Better and efficient operations by using iSCSI specific configurations e.g. jumbo packets, priority traffic and flow control etc

For more information on this reference architecture and component configuration details, refer to “Implementing iSCSI SAN Best Practices with Dell Advanced Infrastructure Manager