FlexAddress - The Simple Low Cost Way To Limit Downtime

Following the highly successful launch of the PowerEdge M Series, Dell continues to add to its blade portfolio by launching a new software tool for chassis enabled persistent identity called FlexAddress. The launch of Dell’s patent pending FlexAddress technology allows any M-Series blade enclosure to lock the World Wide Name (WWN) of the Fibre Channel controller and Media Access Control (MAC) of the Ethernet and iSCSI controller into a blade slot, instead of to the blade’s hardware as was done in the past. By removing the network and storage identity from the server hardware, customers are now able to upgrade and replace components or the entire server without changing the identity on the network.

Technical Community - Background Reading

Dell FlexAddress for PowerEdge M-Series Blades - WhitePaper
Dell Conjures Magic SD Card for Virtualizing Blade Server IO - The Register Article

Chat Transcript

Armando75 Hello and thank you for joining the web chat on Flexaddress. My name is Armando Acosta, I'm the content manager for the blades product. I also have Samit Ashdir lead engineer on Flexaddress and Mike Roberts the planner for the product.
Anil Hi.. are you guys going to start with an overview .. or expect us to start asking questions
Dell-RogerF They are the authors of the detailed whitepaper Dell Flexaddress for Poweredge M-series Blades - Whitepaper
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Armando75 Yes, let em start with a quick overview.
samit_ashdhir not sure if you guys got a chance to read thru the paper...
Dell-RogerF For those of you just joining, you can review the start of the chat by selecting Recent Room history under Action in the upper left of the chat window
Armando75 Flexaddress is a new available feature on the Poweredge M1000e. Flexadreess provides the ability to maintain network and storage identities via the Cmc.
samit_ashdhir but in short, Flexaddress is the feature which substitutes factory programmed or "server-assigned" Mac/wwn on Ethernet and Fibre Channel devices with slot persistent Mac/wwn.
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Armando75 This allows customers Swap out or upgrade Dell Poweredge M-series server blades with Ethernet, iscsi, &fibre Channel controllers seamlessly without affecting the Lan/san. No reconfigurationof deployment frameworks, Dhcp servers, Mac based licensing schemes, or San Zoning
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Dell-RogerF Does that mean just set the addresses by slot and not worry when you pop in a new or replacement blade?
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Armando75 Yes, that is correct
Dell-RogerF So how do you handle the initial setup before you install the blade?
Armando75 The intial install can occur in the factory with a new chassis or can be added in the field
Armando75 For a new chassis, A Secure Digital (SD) card is used to deliver the unique Macs/wwns
Dell-RogerF Do I have to configure the whole chassis with this feature?
Armando75 The Sd card is installed in the Cmc (chassis managment controller)
nmatejko Is the Cmc if shipped say last month able to accept the flex address Sd card or does a new Cmc need to be ordered?
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Armando75 No, you can choose to assign each slot individually
mikejroberts nmatejko,
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mikejroberts sorry- every Cmc we've ever sold has an Sd card slot. to install the feature on an existing chasis you need to get the customer kit for the Sd card. you also have to upgrade firmware on the Cmc, idrac, Fc Hbas and Nics, and update Bios.
Dell-RogerF How do you set it up for a single slot then?
nmatejko Do you know what the customer kit # is?
samit_ashdhir just as an added note on the upgrade, it is recomended to perform updates in following order: Mezz/nic Bios and firmware -> Server Bios -> idrac -> Cmc -> install Sd card
mikejroberts one other thing you get with flexaddress is that you can see a list of Macs/wwns for all the blades in the system via the Cmc Gui and Cli. you will see the hardware and chassis assigned addresses on a single page which could help in deployment
Anil what about systems requiring physical address binding.. is flexiaddress configured with that in mind as well ?
mikejroberts roger- in the Cmc Gui there is a Flexaddress setup tab (there is also a Cli configuration as well) where you can select the slots and fabrics you want Fa enabled on. note that blades must be Off before deploying the Fa Mac/wwns to them
samit_ashdhir nmatejko, cus kit # is G876g
Anil i'll elaborate a little more.. some applications are bound to the physical nic's and hence the mac of that nic.... they are just way too picky in the sense that you cannot even virtualize such servers
samit_ashdhir Anil, once you have Flexaddress enabled on a given blade the application will only see the Flexaddress for the device and would bound to that Flexaddress and not to the factory programmed address
Dell-RogerF Which is the real benefit - change the blade without re-installing the application
samit_ashdhir Though, we have seen a situation with Vmware and Esx where if the Flexaddress was enabled after the Esx install, user would need to refresh the Arp table to have the blade communicate with Virtual Center. This is also documented in our white paper for Flexaddress
Anil hmm. and if we introduce flexiaddress in our existing setup, we do need to update all of our existing servers to identify the new Mac's ??? am i right
Anil that answers my previous question
mikejroberts Anil-that is correct, if you enable flexaddress on an already deployed blade server, the Macs/wwns of those blades would change (assuming you enable it on those slots). you can pick which slots you want it enabled on
Anil from a stability standpoint - have any tests been carried out on Sd card failure
Anil because that would impact any environment very seriously
samit_ashdhir Anil, Flexaddress Sd card is used only during initial activation of the feature and not during run-time. Once the feature is activated, Mac/wwn information from the Flexaddress is stored into chassis Io control panel for run time operation.
Anil good.. that's what i was confused with.. does it need to stay there or it is only a one time activation requirement. if the Chassis is rebooted do we need to insert the Sd card again.. or it is written to run time memory ??
Anil sorry.. you may take other questions also if they come your way.. i am just trying to lay down my questions
samit_ashdhir Io control panel memory is a persistent memory and data stored in the panel would stay there across all states of chassis - including Ac power cycle. Once the feature has been activated, Sd card may be removed fromt the Cmc (though we recommend to leave in the Cmc for Sd card storage).
Dell-RogerF Anil, we're here for questions. How many Dell blades do you have and how long have you had them? Maybe we could learn from some of your experiences.
samit_ashdhir Leaving the Sd card into the Cmc after activation will not only ensure the Feature card is stored in a controlled environment but also would help in case you would need to restore the feature, if Io contol panel fails - which is very unlikely.
Anil we have recently implemented our blade server environment using Dell M600 blades and 1000e enclosure.. we have started off with 4 blades and are moving towards buying 10 more..
Anil Also.. the 10 will be split between head office and Dr site
Armando75 What were your decision criteria for choosing the Poweredge M1000e?
Anil well.. i liked the scalability factor, the i/o seperation technique, and the overall specs
Anil and the price is great for such technology with Dell
Anil i wanted the flexibility that we could move from half height to full height blades without design changes
Armando75 That is great to hear! We pride ourselves on the flexibility of the chassis
Anil i found that the 1000e enclosure is built to be modified into one full height single factor and one full height dual factor
Anil nothing else i could ask in the design
Armando75 I couldn't agree with you more.
Armando75 Flexaddress is another key expample of our flexibility
Anil going back to my questions -- we use internal fiber channel switches as well.. so if we would replace a fiber channel switch (e.g. hardware problem). how will the flexiaddress handle that change.. because its not on the blade directly.. but on the switch inside the chassis
Anil sorry.. flexaddress
mikejroberts Anil- the switch doesnt know anything about Fa, Fa Mac/wwns are deployed down to the blade through the Bios. the switch just sees the Wwns from the blade which are the Fa Wwns
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Anil k
Armando75 Any other questions out there?
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Dell-RogerF Anil, do you script all your server installs or use Os deployment software?
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Anil we use Vmware virtual center.. Os templates
Anil does any component have to change in our server deployment process due to flexaddress. e..g the Sysprep step ?
mikejroberts anil- nothing has to change in deployment from the Os perspective, it just sees the Fa assigned Mac/wwns instead of the hardware ones.
Dell-RogerF Any more questions before we wrap up for this week?
Anil thanks for answering my questions
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Armando75 No problem, that is what we are here for
Dell-RogerF If anyone has questions after we leave, just post them on the bottom of the transcript page when we post it tomorrow.
Dell-RogerF Thanks everyone. We hope to see you back next week for our chat on the benefits of iscsi with Virtualization
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Stuart Ah..... a bit too late again.... :)
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