Contents: Overview Key Features Download   Documents  Whitepapers   Videos   FAQ 

Active Fabric Manager Overview

Dell’s Active Fabric Manager is a key software application to automate tasks associated with designing, building and monitoring data center fabrics, reducing fabric deployment time by up to 86% compared to manual configurations. Users can now design and deploy Layer 2 & Layer 3 fabrics within a matter of minutes. Unlike traditional Network Management tools that primarily focus on performance monitoring of various network elements, AFM has been built ground-up as an automation and orchestration tool for the entire fabric.


AFM includes many innovations that can save time and eliminate manual tasks associated with fabric design and deployment. For example, AFM includes a design wizard which simplifies the entire process of designing a network fabric, end-to-end. The wizard prompts the user to provide inputs required for the fabric design in an intuitive fashion. In the background, AFM carries out all necessary calculations to present the most appropriate fabric topology, eliminating guesswork and errors that are common in network design and implementation. The designs are derived from a set of predefined templates that have been validated for deployment as Layer 2 or Layer 3 fabrics, including spine-leaf Active Fabric topologies and underlying technologies such as Dell Virtual Link Trunking (VLT) and stacking.


Features & Benefits 

 New Features in AFM 2.5:

-          New platform support:

  • PowerEdge M I/O Aggregator (IOA)
  • S5000  

-          Auto-Discovery of existing Dell fabrics:

  • Customers can now use AFM to help build and manage fabric topologies that include existing Dell switches

Key AFM Features:

Feature: Benefit:

Design Templates for Layer-2 and Layer-3 fabric topologies

  • Accelerate the deployment of Active Fabric offerings
  • Provide a single tool to design, document, deploy and manage complex fabric topologies 

Automated Provisioning, Validation and Configuration

  • Task and time compression associated with deployment of complex fabrics
  • Near instant validation and rapid troubleshooting

Visualization and Usability Enhancements

  • Provide a rich user experience
  • Establish a simple way to design and deploy complex fabrics 

Package and distribute AFM as a holistic virtual appliance

  • Reduce the number of pre-requisites to install and use AFM
  • Easier end user experience

HIgh Availablility for AFM Server

  • No manual intervention to recover from AFM server failure

Northbound API's for Ecosystem Integration

  • Network abstraction for end users of higher level orchestration engines 

Expanded Platform Support

  • Expanded support matrix - Z9000, S4810, S4820-T, MXL, S5000, S6000, PE M I/O Aggregator, S60, S55 


 AFM provides a user-friendly solution for deploying complex fabrics, putting within reach for a great number of data centers the type of advanced network architectures needed for innovation in today’s highly virtualized environments.



Active Fabric Manager Spec Sheet:

Active Fabric Manager – Installation Guide 

Active Fabric Manager – Deployment  Guide 


Active Fabric 1.5 Features and Technical Overview - Whitepaper

Data Center Design Considerations with 40GbE and 100GbE 


Installing the AFM 1.5 Virtual Appliance 

Deploying an Extra Large non-blocking Layer-3 Fabric with Active Fabric Manager 

Active Fabric Manager tech talk at Interop 2013:

 Video Presentation of AFM 1.0 by Brad Hedlund (note: this is not for the latest version of AFM)


1.  What is AFM?

AFM is standalone software from Dell Networking that is aimed at automating the tasks associated with the deployment of datacenter fabrics. The tasks span the various stages of the fabric deployment lifecycle that includes Design, Build and Run (Monitor).

2.  Is AFM applicable only for Distributed Core deployments?

AFM automates the design and deployment of Layer-3 Fabrics (a.k.a Distributed Core) as well as Layer-2 Fabrics leveraging VLT (Virtual Link Trunking).

3.  Does AFM support MXL?

Yes. AFM 1.5 added MXL as a supported platform and is included as a switching device in the supported Layer-2 topologies. AFM also automates the stacking of MXL switches across M1000e blade chassis.

4.  Does AFM support IOA?

AFM 2.5 is IOA ready.  It requires the upcoming Yakima MR release to support IOA in a single template configuration supporting chassis and private VLAN settings. We will continue to add more templates in upcoming releases

5.  What are the various switches that are supported with AFM 2.5?

The switches supported are Z9000, S6000, S5000, S4810, S4820T, MXL, S60 and S55.

6.  What is the maximum number of switches supported in a particular fabric?

This depends on the AFM design template and the oversubscription that is chosen by the user. For instance, the Layer-2 topology with 10GbE endpoints supports 2 Z9000s (in a VLT pair) in the Spine Layer and up to 26 S4810s (13 VLT pairs) in the leaf layer. Please refer to the AFM User’s guide for all supported topologies and the scalability limits.

7.  What is license cost for AFM?

There is no licensing associated with the current version of AFM software.

8.  What happens when the AFM server fails?

AFM software operates out of the data path.  Failure of the AFM server does not impact the operations of the fabrics under management.  However, AFM server failure can be mitigated by opting for the high availability feature supported with off-the-shelf hypervisor functionality like VMware HA.

9.  Is AFM embedded with Dell Network Operating System 9?

AFM is standalone software that is packaged as a holistic virtual appliance and runs in its own virtual machine. It is not a component of Dell OS9.

10.  Does AFM support PowerConnect switches?

AFM currently does not support the PowerConnect switches and only focuses on the datacenter portfolio.  In a later release, AFM will add support for campus fabrics as well.

11.  Where can I download the AFM software from?

AFM software can be downloaded from the iSupport site of Dell Force10 Networks.

12.  What operating systems are supported by AFM?

AFM packaged and distributed as a holistic virtual appliance that includes the underlying Operating System (Cent OS). The virtual appliance is OVF (Open Virtualization Format) compliant and can be deployed on any standard hypervisor. However, all of the testing has been done with VMware vSphere and VMware Workstation.   Please refer to the AFM Installation Guide for additional details.

13.  Does AFM have support for Fibre Channel / FCoE / converged fabrics?

AFM does support topologies with LAN/SAN convergence. This became available with support for the S5000.

14.  What is the difference between AFM and ASM (Active System Manager)?

AFM is targeted at the network admin and provides an automation solution to design, deploy and monitor datacenter fabrics. ASM is complementary software from Dell that automates the deployment, and management of physical and virtualized CI (converged infrastructure). ASM is primarily targeted at the CI admin.

15.  Does AFM replace the commonly deployed NMS tools?

No, AFM is complementary to NMS offerings like OMNM and FogLight NMS. AFM is now able to link and launch the NMS consoles.

16.  When will AFM support the S9500?

The new S9500 will be supported in a future release of AFM. Please refer to the networking product roadmap.

17.  I heard that AFM now supports closer integration with 3rd party private cloud and virtualization environments.

Yes, through northbound API’s, AFM now provides transparent fabric automation for the OpenStack Neutron plugin where AFM can now seamlessly plug into OpenStack cloud solutions. In addition AFM now provides CLI for the VMWare vSphere Distributed Switch (VDS) allowing better visibility into virtual networks.

18.  How many design templates does AFM now support?

AFM now supports over 100+ design templates. In addition, these templates are customizable to help better meet the unique requirements of our customers.

19.  I understand AFM will now support existing fabric environments?

Yes, AFM now has the ability to auto- discover and “bolt on” to existing fabric deployments