3Up Systems' Upsite Blade System Management Suite

An easy-to-use Web interface helps manage your blade servers and associated iSCSI storage.

April 22, 2005

5 Min Read
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Upsite gave me a bird's-eye view of my blade server chassis and its configuration in real-time and made it easy to manage my blades and storage intuitively. Although not all storage functions can be performed from the Upsite software, all jobs relating to remote blade-booting and blade-server image management can. Because I could go to the storage server's interface for storage-related management, I didn't find Upsite limited in functionality.

Drill-Down

After deploying Upsite, I went to the user interface to peruse the items I could manage, including hardware, switching, storage, images and users. This level of the interface is intuitive--simply open the folders and view the details in the main part of the screen (see screenshot, page 30).

The hardware folder lists each 3Up blade server chassis by IP address. Selecting a blade server shows you the overall status of the chassis and the blades installed on it. You can drill down into individual blade as well. I saw error messages, managed boot images for individual blades, and could have turned the blade on and off all from the blade-information view. From the overall chassis view, I could shut down the OS or kill the power and change the start-up options for each blade.Not only does Upsite let you capture real-time information about the chassis and each individual blade through the GUI, it also lets you change the logical volume of the iSCSI target from which each individual blade boots.

To test the ability to move a blade between operating systems, I provisioned each blade to boot from one OS, then reprovisioned some blades to boot from different OSs. I later tested the disk-cloning facility and changed a blade to boot from a new image, which caused the only glitch in my testing.

A couple of times, a blade failed to boot when changing boot volumes or images, so I had to go to the box and reboot the blade physically. 3Up insisted the trouble lay not with Upsite, but with the level of iSCSI support in Windows 2000.

So Many Choices

Upsite is flexible. You can configure initiators on the blades to use for booting; you can configure targets and logical volumes on the iSCSI array; and you can tell each blade whether to boot from a remote target or the chassis local drive. Before I had the networking connectivity to the Rastor configured on the blade-server chassis, I used the chassis local image to boot from, giving me a bootable image without the iSCSI volumes, a useful recovery mechanism if you really mess up a volume, target or initiator configuration.The remote-boot capability requires PXE to boot from an iSCSI array. As with all PXE implementations, when I had problems with DHCP/PXE configuration on the network, the blades would not boot remotely. Because you can local-boot any blade from an image on the chassis, there's still the ability for error recovery even when remote boot doesn't work.

Good

• Granular control of boot images from iSCSI or local disk• Intuitive interface

• Supports Symantec Ghost images and logical volume copies• Supports NetApp and Resilient iSCSI targets

Bad

• Documentation translation could be improved

• Rudimentary load-balancing support• Error messages sometimes poorly worded and/or cryptic• Booting occasionally fails• Manages only 3UP chassis

UPsite Blade System Management SuitE, RMAP server: $2,500; RMAP agent license: $200 per server blade; iSCSI diskless boot agent license: $200 per server blade. 3Up Systems, (888) 387-5359, (408) 517-0782. www.3upsystems.com

One feature I found particularly appealing was the ability to clone logical volumes on the Rastor. Need to put a blade into service that performs the same function as an existing one? First, take the blade you want to copy offline. Create a new logical volume using Upsite, then copy from the pre-existing one to the new one. Next, through the GUI, tell the new blade to boot from the new volume, and restart the blade you had stopped to copy the volume. That's it. Now you have two blades running your application.

3Up Systems' Upsite Blade System

Click to Enlarge

Of course, you'll have to worry about load balancing them and ensuring they run correctly and play nicely, but Upsite makes it easy to set up the server and storage side. I tested this by cloning my Red Hat volume to a separate logical volume and booting from it. All went well, and I had two Red Hat blades running identical configurations in a matter of minutes.

Speaking of Balance

Through service-level agreements, Upsite provides rudimentary, primarily Layer 4 load balancing to divvy up the work among blades. Using the SLA tab on the GUI, you can tell the switch in the blade chassis which ports to load balance, which blades to include in the rotation, and whether to use the round-robin, weighted round-robin or least-connections load-balancing algorithm.

I tested load balancing by configuring an SLA for balancing Web servers. I then set the rule for load balancing to activate in the switch for my two matching Red Hat blades, and rebooted one. While the blade was rebooting, I got to the Web server without interference.Upsite also lets you manage the switch built into the 3Up blade server chassis. I created and deleted VLANs (virtual LANs) and IP filters on the switch. Too bad the GUI lacks a routing feature--when you build a data center with several chassis in it, routing between the built-in switches and the gateway switch can be a big deal.

The Upsite Blade System Management Suite is clearly a 1.0 version, complete with the problems you'd expect from an early adopter. But it shows promise as an easy-to-use, flexible blade-server management tool.

Don MacVittie is a senior technology editor at Network Computing. Write to him at [email protected].

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