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Brocade Network Advisor Management Plug-in for VMware vCenter

Jan 13th, 2011by Arnim van Lieshout.

The storage network administrator drew my attention to the Brocade Network Advisor (BNA) Management Plug-in for VMware vCenter.

Brocade Network Advisor

Brocade Network Advisor provides a unified network management solution across Brocade Fibre Channel SANs, Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), Layer 2/3 IP switches and routers, Wireless, Layer 4/7 Application Delivery networks and Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) networks. It provides a consistent user interface along with custom views and controls based on users’ areas of specialization. For more information have a look at the Brocade site or view the solutions brief

Management Plug-in for VMware vCenter

The management plug-in for VMware vCenter displays SAN connectivity information for managed ESX server hosts and switch port statistics in the vSphere client. It’s implemented as a web application hosted on the BNA Management server. This web application sends dynamic HTML content to the vSphere client and the client renders the HTML content.

  • SAN connectivity information of each virtual machine across all managed ESX hosts of the vCenter server.
  • Switch or AG port statistics of the switch to which the host is directly connected.
  • End-to-end (EE) monitor statistics (collected by EE monitors on the switch).
  • SAN events based on Fabric OS events displayed in the vSphere client. These events include a crossed threshold at the switch or AG ports for transmit or receive percent utilization as well an adapter port logging out of the fabric.

The VMware vCenter plug-in is supported on:

  • ESX 4.0 and ESX 3.5
  • vCenter 4.0 and later
  • Plug-in will support managing ESX hosts with adapters from following vendors:
    • Brocade Communications
    • Q-Logic
    • Emulex

Please note that the management plug-in for vCenter is only available in the BNA Professional and Enterprise products. After reading more info on the Brocade website, we decided to give it a try, but the problem was that we didn’t find any download available. Also consulting our Brocade contacts didn’t brought a solution. Digging through BNA’s documentation, we found out that the VMware vCenter management plug-in isn’t a separate download, but already integrated in BNA.

Configuring the VMware vCenter plug-in

First we need to provide BNA with information of the vCenter location.

  1. On the BNA Management server’s Tools menu select the Plug-in for vCenter option
  2. In the dialog box that appears, press the Add button
  3. Enter the information for your vCenter server and press OK to continue.

After the vCenter Plug-in is configured, it’s automatically activated on the vCenter server and you’ll notice a new “SAN FabricViews” tab. Remember that it needs some time before SAN information is actually displayed. After information from vCenter is gathered by the BNA Management server, you’ll notice that the “SAN

FabricViews” tab now shows SAN connectivity information.

The Connectivity window provides SAN fabric and switch details to VMware vCenter (screenshot taken from Brocade vCenter Plug-in solutions brief)

Clicking on the “Statistics” button reveals performance statistics and end-to-end fabric visibility.

The Statistics windows provides end-to-end fabric visibility and performance statistics (screenshot taken from Brocade vCenter Plug-in solutions brief)

Conclusion

From the ESX Administrator point of view it provides more insight into the SAN. You can easily spot which SAN switches your host is connected to and view the SAN port’s status. It also enables you to quickly determine the identifier of the datastore’s underlying LUN, which is often necessary when communicating with the storage network administrator. On the other hand it’s still a 1.0 product. Refreshing the view from the statistics panel sorts everything in reverse order every time, which is annoying when you want to refresh the performance statistics. Also the documentation states that it supports ESX 3.5 and ESX 4.0, but doesn’t mention ESX 4.1 at all. In the test environment we had ESX 4.1 servers running and we didn’t encounter any errors directly from using ESX 4.1. However after some time our vCenter server turned up as not responding in the vCenter plug-in on the BNA Management server, and the number of ESX hosts discovered didn’t match with the number of ESX hosts available in the test environment. Re-adding our vCenter server to the plug-in did not bring a solution. Finally, I like to see products integrate and this is a first step into vSphere – SAN integration. Let’s see this product evolve.

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Category: Advisor

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