Hardware Today: Server Admins SMASH Servers Page 2

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted Nov 28, 2005


SMASH in Action

How will SMASH help in the real world? Three likely scenarios — a large cluster, a branch office, and a mixed rack of 1U servers with blades — play out as follows.

Clusters: How do you diagnose and power cycle the various servers within the cluster when the operating system has hung? With so many machines running, it's difficult to spot issues. By configuring IPMI thresholds within the servers, potential heat and power issues can be recorded and alerted to management consoles, such as Avocent's DSView, ahead of meltdowns, providing time to fix the problem. This predictive alerting offers cluster managers a chance to keep compute cycles, and return on investment, to a maximum. Alternatively, power cycling can be achieved by executing the "Power Cycle" SMASH script against the IPMI firmware in the servers using a Telnet or SSH2 session.

Branch Office: Without local expertise or even personnel to keep an eye on systems, how do you fill the gap? By placing an appliance out at the branch, you can aggregate alerts and secure access to a single point. An IPMI 'Server Security Alert' received at the head office indicates someone just popped open the server chassis. If that appliance supports SMASH, scripts can be run centrally, irrespective of the model or vendor of those branch servers. Opening a Telnet/SSH2 session to the SMASH appliance enables a health check to be run by pulling IPMI information. Additionally, an 'Inventory Scan' can be run using SMASH script to identify whether changes have been made out in the field.

Mixed Rack: IPMI and SMASH don't care whether they are being applied to a blade, a motherboard, a plug-in card, or the blade's chassis manager. To the administrator and his scripts, it all looks the same. So what happens when the rack experiences an "event"? A "Stream Console over LAN" SMASH script opens multiple operating system console sessions and records what the operating system consoles were doing right before the failure. The administrator can also set up thresholds to check on overall system hardware health.

What to Expect

Early next year, new server systems and appliances that support both IPMI v2.0 and SMASH v1.0 are due on the market. IPMI 2 adds additional security enhancements involving authentication and encryption of the serial-over-LAN (SOL) connection as well as for remote BIOS and operating system console viewing. SMASH v1.0, on the other hand, will offer a standardized command line to the server functions provided by IPMI.

Some vendors, such as Dell and Avocent, are ahead of others in adding these features to their products. Dell has already integrated IPMI across the entire PowerEdge product.

"In the future Dell will integrate other standards, like SMASH, across our entire line in order to make administrators' lives easier and more productive," says Dell's Fruehe.

Avocent, too, is adding SMASH to its products. In addition to DSView mentioned above, its embedded Virtual Presence Infrastructure (eVPI) product line is using SMASH to provide administrators with a consistent command-line interface for managing heterogeneous servers.

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