In the last two years I was participating on the many designs, implementations and reviews of the vSphere on IBM/Lenovo Flex System or PureFlex, if you want to call like that.
Therefore today I would like to share with you my preferred way of doing it right from vSphere perspective as I’ve seen a lot of admins struggling because of marketing and useless features propagated together with Flex System. Especially when you don’t have converged teams in your organizations and components are managed by different teams, you are looking for disaster introducing not needed complexity.
Lets start with useless stuff on Flex System (when using vSphere)
Flex System Manager (FSM)
This thing was propagated as the most added value of the PureFlex systems, unfortunately it has lot of bugs and I’m not even sure if it is still under development . Luckily you don’t have to use it at all with vSphere and I would also recommend you not to use it, of course if you are happy with it, good for you and please leave a comment I’m wondering if anybody is using in production actually. There is a tool called Upward Integration Modules, which is not perfect, but definitely better and you already should have a license if you purchased FSM, so better to use this one with vSphere for HW management.
NIC Virtualization (vNIC – Hardware assisted)
Again highly propagated feature, something which can be useful if you would have proper management tools for (but there none except FSM), basically what it does is creating virtual adapters (four per port) on NIC “firmware level” when you are using an Emulex VFA adapters it support three modes – switch independent, virtual fabric and unified fabric port mode. Unless you are seeking for trouble I would really recommend you to use vSphere Virtual Distributed switch and Network I/O Control instead. vSphere is lets say not so compatible when using this vNIC’s if you would check some forums you would see a lot of people having troubles because of bugs in drivers and firmwares – this is not issue of IBM or Lenovo, but Emulex. Other vendors using those cards like HP are experiencing issues as well. If you use HW offloaded FCoE or iSCSI on those cards, you’ll have to use this feature whenever you like it or not.
Ethernet scalable switches
Former BNT switches. Nightmare for the networking guys especially manageable ones, as those switches lacks detailed documentation and they are full of bugs. Only few people understands them and this is the reason why you should be avoiding using them. If you want to integrate Flex or PureFlex systems into your existing network infrastructure I would strongly recommend you to use Flex System Fabric SI4093 System Interconnect Module in majority of your deployments. This switch requires minimum or no management, does not bring loops and participation on spanning tree so networking guys will be… just happy.
When I finished writing this post I’ve discovered Lenovo released something called Lenovo XClarity Administrator and it looks like replacement for FSM, never tested it, but I’m glad that I can say finally! It includes former Upward Integration modules called XClarity integrator for VMware vCenter. Lets hope it will finally brings working management interface for Flex system hardware and also Virtual NICs… I will be happy for any feedback!
In the next part I would like to show you how to design vSphere virtual switches when using Flex systems.
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