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Thanks to Amazon's popular EC2 cloud, every IT end user wants to have a self-service portal to get their own servers, and Dell has partnered with DynamicOps, which makes virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and lab management (jukeboxing and lifecycle management for VMs) software, to cook one up for AIM 3.3 (Gee, I wonder who Dell will acquire next?) "Self service is a core component of the private cloud," says Baker. "I am a former IT admin, and if I never had to talk to an end user, I would have been pretty happy," he admits with a laugh. "Conversely, I don't want end users running my IT, either."

Dell's new VIS Self-Service Creator allows system administrators to create virtual machines and publish them to a catalog that end users can ask permission to use. The portal hooks into whatever governance mechanisms and workflows that are required at an IT shop to provision a machine, a task that is handed over to AIM 3.3 once all the virtual paperwork is approved.

The portal interfaces with the resource controlling parts of AIM 3.3, making sure end user VMs splash in the server, network, and storage pools they are assigned to and don't wander off into deeper waters where they are not permitted. The workload deployment engine is in the portal in this case, not in the provisioning manager (AIM). The tool is used to request, provision, manage, and retire the VM or physical server instance, and has role-based access controls so you can give different users or admins varying degrees of control. (For instance, maybe end users can only request VMs, but they can't provision or kill them.)

Dell is also previewing another module of the server management stack called VIS Director, which sits on top of AIM 3.3 and acts as an IT operations hub, showing system admins the dependencies between physical or virtual servers, showing them cost metrics for workloads, and doing static and predictive capacity and performance trend analysis. VIS Director will be available in the next quarter or so, and contrasts with VMware's vCloud Director in that it will span multiple hypervisors.

Baker says that in benchmark tests performed by Dell, the VIS stack allows companies to deploy server workloads 90 per cent faster, cut down on deployment steps by between 70 and 75 per cent, and cut IT management costs in about half. Given these numbers, Dell is hoping to radically ramp up the Scalent installed base now that it has the self-service portal and will soon have the director in the field. Scalent had an installed base of several hundred customers, each managing hundreds of servers, when Dell snapped it up during the summer.

Del is charging on a per-socket basis for the systems under management for AIM and the VIS Self-Service Creator portal. AIM 3.3 costs $1,810 per socket, while the portal costs $1,495 per socket. ®

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