From Zero to Cluster in Minutes: PowerEdge VRTX and the OpenManage Cluster Configurator for Windows Server 2012

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending Microsoft’s TechEd conference in New Orleans.  Conferences aren’t always a pleasure, often resulting in long hours and sore feet, but in this case, Dell was launching the new PowerEdge VRTX server solution and the crowd was absolutely overwhelming in their enthusiasm.  “I want one” was the phrase of the day!

VRTX defines a completely new category of enterprise product, and is intended for remote and branch office use.  Housed within its deceptively small tower case is up to 4 compute nodes (Dell M520 or M620 blades), 8 network ports, and up to 48TB of storage that can be shared among the nodes.  All of these are orchestrated by a Chassis Management Controller (CMC), so this is truly a complete data center in a box.  Setup consists of simply plugging in the power, network and CMC cables.  Because it’s designed to tuck under a desk, the acoustics on the box are so quiet that we had it running all day during the conference and most people standing next to it didn’t realize it was powered up.

What makes VRTX even more of a complete solution is the OpenManage Cluster Configurator that will be provided as a customer option in conjunction with OEM factory-installed Windows Server 2012 operating systems.  This tool is amazing in the way it streamlines configuration of the VRTX networking, shared storage, and compute nodes down to just a few steps following boot-up, culminating in a fully operational Hyper-V cluster.  It also provides an easy portal to the CMC to tweak the configuration, as needed.  Normally, putting together a cluster can be a pain and take a lot of time, but with this tool, a 2 or 4 node cluster can be up and running in less than an hour!  In addition, using Dell’s iDRAC with Lifecycle Controller to access just one of the nodes, a cluster can be configured from anywhere in the world.  Most customers with distributed operations really like this capability because it gives them the option of bypassing the “hop” that new hardware typically takes to the central IT shop for imaging and configuring prior to being disbursed to the remote office.

We’re really excited about the initial release of the OpenManage Cluster Configurator expected in August, but we’ve got great plans for future releases, too.  In fact, we put a high value on our customers’ needs and we’re actively soliciting your “wish list” for the tool.  So, let us know your thoughts, whether in the comments below, through your channel representative, IdeaStorm or the many Dell forums.

About the Author: David Troeger

David is responsible for enabling Microsoft Azure public cloud SaaS, PaaS and IaaS technologies at Dell as a Cloud Solution Provider.