Paul Steeves is a senior marketing manager for the Dell Enterprise Solutions Group

An adaptable IT infrastructure is critical in helping enterprises match specific workload requirements and keep pace with advances in computing technology.

Enterprise computing needs are dynamically changing as business and technology leaders embrace strategic computing innovations to create novel opportunities and gain competitive advantage. The ever-increasing demand for cloud, the exponential expansion of enterprise mobility, the widespread adoption of big data initiatives and the rise of software-defined infrastructures: All these factors drive IT decision makers to evaluate fresh approaches in the data center.

Many IT leaders are looking to adopt the latest application workload paradigms that industry leaders are pioneering. Wherever possible, they want to gain the economic advantages that scale-out technologies have achieved for cloud providers.

Scalable architecture

To address the challenges introduced by the latest computing demands, the Dell PowerEdge FX converged architecture is designed to give enterprises the flexibility to tailor the IT infrastructure to specific workloads — and the ability to scale and adapt that infrastructure as needs change over time.

The FX architecture is based on a modular, building-block concept that makes it easy for enterprises to focus processing resources where needed. This concept is realized through the PowerEdge FX2 chassis, the foundation of the FX architecture. The PowerEdge FX2 is a 2U rack-based, converged computing platform that combines the density and efficiencies of blades with the simplicity and cost advantages of rack-based systems.

The PowerEdge FX2 houses flexible blocks of server, storage and I/O resources while providing outstanding efficiencies through shared power, networking, I/O and management within the chassis itself. Although each server block has some local storage, the FX architecture allows servers to access multiple types of storage, including a centralized storage area network (SAN) and direct attach storage (DAS) in FX storage blocks or in Just a Bunch of Disks (JBODs).

The FX architecture lets data centers easily support an IT-as-a-service approach because it is specifically designed to fit the scale-out model that the approach embraces. At the same time, its inherent flexibility adds value to existing environments. In data centers of all sizes, the FX architecture enables deployments to be rightsized, efficient and cost-effective.

Easy workload optimization

A key design tenet of the FX architecture is ease of workload optimization. The modular blocks of computing resources and the broad range of components available in the FX architecture let data center operators quickly size infrastructure needs to respective workloads.

Server blocks. The rich set of features that are hallmarks of PowerEdge servers make individual FX server blocks especially flexible in the functionality they can offer. For example, the PowerEdge FM120x4 microserver block addresses the requirements of scale-out computing by optimizing power consumption and footprint. Web services providers can benefit tremendously from the high density, easy manageability and cost-effectiveness that the PowerEdge FM120x4 affords. It is also suited for processing tasks such as batch data analytics.

The PowerEdge FC430 is an excellent option for web serving, virtualization, dedicated hosting and other midrange computing tasks. Its extra-small, quarter-width size is designed to make the PowerEdge FC430 one of the densest solutions in the market. The small, modular form factor of the PowerEdge FC430 enables data centers to host a large number of virtual machines and applications on physically discrete servers, minimizing the impact of potential failures on overall operations. This capability makes the PowerEdge FC430 an outstanding choice for distributed environments that require physical separation for security, regulatory compliance or heightened levels of reliability. It also has an InfiniBand®-capable version that enables low-latency processing.

The PowerEdge FC630 server, with its high-performance processors and large memory capacity, can serve as a strong foundation for corporate data centers and private clouds. It readily handles demanding business applications such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM), and it also can host a large virtualization environment.

With support for up to four high-performance processors and exceptionally large memory capacity, the PowerEdge FC830 server is designed to handle very demanding, mission-critical workloads of midsize and large enterprises, whether they are large-scale virtualization deployments, centralized business applications or the database tier of web technology and high-performance computing environments.

Storage block. The PowerEdge FD332 storage block provides dense, highly scalable DAS for most FX infrastructures.2 It is a critical component of the FX architecture, enabling future-ready, scale-out infrastructures that bring storage closer to compute for accelerated processing. When used with pass-through mode, it can support software-defined architectures like the VMware® Virtual SAN™ and Microsoft® Storage Spaces platforms.

The PowerEdge FD332 is excellent for consolidation of environments that require high-performance, scale-out storage, such as Apache™ Hadoop® deployments. It also is well suited for dense virtual SAN (vSAN) environments, providing cost-effective, high-capacity hard disk drives (HDDs) that work with solid-state drive (SSD) caches in the server blocks.

I/O blocks. The PowerEdge FN410s, PowerEdge FN410t and PowerEdge FN2210s I/O blocks provide plug-and-play, network-switch layer 2 functions. These powerful I/O aggregators help simplify cable management while also enabling networking features such as optimized east-west (server-to-server) traffic within the chassis, LAN/SAN convergence and streamlined network deployment.

Advanced enterprise management

The FX architecture supports heightened levels of automation, simplicity and consistency across IT-defined configurations. This enables IT administrators to leverage their past experience with Dell OpenManage systems management tools and maintain the field-tested benefits of comprehensive, agent-free management over the entire platform lifecycle: deploy, update, monitor and maintain. Additionally, the FX platform offers administrators a wide range of systems management alternatives and capabilities.

Administrators can elect to manage FX systems like a rack server — locally or remotely — using the Integrated Dell Remote Access Controller 8 (iDRAC8) with Lifecycle Controller. Or they can manage the servers and chassis collectively in a one-to-many fashion using the innovative Chassis Management Controller (CMC), an embedded server management component. These options enable administrators to easily adopt FX servers without changing existing processes.

Each FX server block’s iDRAC8 with Lifecycle Controller provides agent-free management independent of the hypervisor or OS installed. The iDRAC8 can be used to manage and monitor shared infrastructure components such as fans and power supply units. Any alerts are reported by each server block, just as with a traditional rack server.

Alternatively, these same alerts are routed through the CMC when it is used to manage the FX infrastructure. Administrators also can use the CMC’s intuitive web interface to manage the server blocks through the iDRAC8 with Lifecycle Controller or through platform networking.

In addition, the CMC can monitor up to 20 FX systems at a glance, perform one-to-many BIOS and firmware updates, and maintain slot-based server configuration profiles that update BIOS and firmware when a new server is installed. Each of these abilities helps deliver time savings over conventional management and reduce the risk of human-entry errors by automating repetitive tasks.

Finally, OpenManage Essentials and OpenManage Mobile provide remote monitoring and management across FX and PowerEdge servers as well as Dell storage, networking and firewall devices.

Foundation for a future-ready, agile infrastructure

By creating PowerEdge FX as a flexible converged architecture that can grow and advance with the latest technologies, Dell enables enterprises to deploy IT infrastructure that easily adapts to the ever-shifting business and technology landscape. The foundations IT decision makers invest in today are designed to support the changes they implement tomorrow, giving enterprises the agility to remain competitive in a fast-moving marketplace.

Kevin Oliver and John Abrams contributed to this article.

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Dell PowerEdge FX 

Dell OpenManage 

1 Dell expects to release the PowerEdge FX2 and the PowerEdge FC630, PowerEdge FM120x4 and FN I/O aggregators in December 2014 and the PowerEdge FC430, PowerEdge FC830 and PowerEdge FD332 in the first half of 2015. 

2 The PowerEdge FD332 block does not support the PowerEdge FM120 microserver.