Monday, May 3, 2010

Egenera PAN Manager 6.0

Egenera was a very early blade computer supplier that pioneered the concept of “converged infrastructures” to reduce overall cost and improve overall flexibility of system configurations. Others, such as Cisco, Dell, HP and IBM followed down that same path over the eyars. Although many medical issues made it impossible for me to be briefed on PAN Manager 6.0, I thought it would be good to do a bit of spelunking on Engenera’s website and review some messages from an old friend, Ken Oestreich, vice president marketing, Egenera.

Here’s what Egenera has to say about PAN Manager 6.0

PAN Manager Software is designed for standard x86 server blades and standard Ethernet components, but without need for additional network interface cards (NICs) or host bus adapters (HBAs). Integrated technologies include virtualized I/O, converged networking, virtual switching and virtual load balancing which together create flexibly configured infrastructure that can be dynamically allocated to meet large-scale data center demands for virtualization, HA and DR.

Egenera created the first converged infrastructure systems based on PAN Manager Software in 2001. Today, more than 1,400 instances of PAN Manager run in data centers across the globe on both Egenera BladeFrame® and Dell™ PowerEdge™servers. Additional platforms are expected soon.

PAN Manager 6.0 simplifies data center infrastructure and operations and management by:

* Eliminating costly I/O and networking components such as NICs, HBAs and cables
* Eliminating the requirement of costly networking transports such as FibreChannel-over-Ethernet (FCoE) or InfiniBand
* Simplifying unified management of physical, virtual and mixed environments using a single console
* Integrating n+1 HA and n+1 DR for physical, virtual and mixed infrastructure removing the need for siloed physical and virtual clustering products
* Enabling server profile definitions, policy-based provisioning, and event management that automatically adjusts to changing demand all with a single GUI

Typical customer use-cases for PAN Manager include:

* Uninterrupted running of business-critical software such as enterprise resource planning, financial systems and supply chain management applications
* Highly reliable hardware platforms for densely virtualized host clusters, such as virtual desktop environments
* Cloud infrastructure-as-a-Service foundations requiring elastic capacity and self-healing HA and DR properties

The new software has significant simplification, price/performance, and operational advantages over vendor-specific hardware alternatives such as HP Matrix and Cisco UCS solutions, which can require entirely new networking infrastructure, blade management hardware, and multiple third-party software components to deliver equivalent HA and DR functionality. In contrast, Egenera rejects such hardware lock-in. The company is committed to software-based solutions, to additional multi-platform PAN Manager support, and to open standards, enabling customers to use their existing standard IT infrastructure when opting for converged infrastructures.

Snapshot Analysis

It has been interesting to watch functions move out of the mainframe, into separate servers and then back again. “Converged infrastructures” are an approach to bring back functions that have migrated out of system for flexibility, scalability and cost reduction. IT staff members found that managing a whole herd of network servers, each responsible for a different type of I/O, became just as much of a problem as the limited “everything in the mainframe box” approach.

While the new approach offered flexibility and the ability to add and change networking technology in the datacenter, it also brought along with it a significant commitment to mastering different management tools, licensing models and also often meant sticking with older technology because the network server supplier chosen didn’t feel the need to keep up with advances in processors, memory and the like. These suppliers had a “good enough” solution and often didn’t feel enough competitive pressure to focus on improving each and every component in their servers.

IT organizations began to complain that maintaining separate networks for Ethernet, storage and high speed computer-to-computer communications was expensive, difficult to manage and required too many different types of expertise. So, the pendulum started to swing back to having one multifunction network that supported virtual networking to support all of those types of communications over a single wire. Egenera was an early player in this move with its single-vendor blade servers.

Over the years as more hardware suppliers started to walk down that path, Egenera offered its management software to make managing and optimizing that environment much simpler. This release focuses on increasing the scale of the managed environment, increasing availability and should be on the short list for many organizations.

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