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Implementing IBM BladeCenter Open Fabric Manager

By Aaron Delp

A few months ago I implemented the Basic version IBM’s BladeCenter Open Fabric Manager (BOFM) and I wanted to share some of my notes with everyone. It has been awhile so this is very high level; most of the small details have since fallen out of my head.

If you don’t know what Open Fabric Manager is, BOFM allows you to virtualize the FC and Ethernet connections coming from a blade server. BOFM is IBM’s response to HP’s Virtual Connect.

In very simple terms, BOFM overrides the default adapter Ethernet MAC and FC WWNs and replaces them with MACs and WWNs that are generated by BOFM at the BLADE SLOT level. If you have a blade in the first slot in a chassis and you replace the blade, the MAC and WWN stays the same because OFM will again over ride the defaults on the replacement.

BOFM is offered in two versions, the Basic version and the Advanced version. The Basic version is implemented in the BladeCenter Advanced Management Module and provides BOFM functionality for that chassis and provides slot level redundancy only. Each blade slot in the chassis has a profile and this profile is static.

Advanced BOFM takes this concept a step farther. Advanced BOFM is a plug-in to IBM Director and allows management of multiple chassis from a single location. Furthermore, it also allows for a hot-spare blade. A profile on a slot can be copied to another slot in the case of a failure. I did not implement this feature but I will include a link to a GREAT document at the end of this article that explains the hot spare process.

Why is BOFM a good thing? The main reason for BOFM is one time set up of the network and storage. If you work for a large organization where a network team is required to configure the Ethernet ports and a SAN team is required to configure the FC ports, replacement of parts requires interaction with other team members that may or may not be available for changes on short notice. Also, if your organization utilizes change control then tickets may have to be generated, meetings, approvals all that fun stuff that comes with Enterprise administration with multiple teams.

What does BOFM bring to virtualization? The answer is it depends. If you are using VMware and you are running HA and DRS in your cluster, does it make sense to have a blade sitting idle in the chassis doing nothing because it is a hot spare? No, it doesnt. That blade should be in the cluster participating and providing resources. If you are using VMware in a non-HA and non-DRS environment or some other stand alone virtualization product, it could make sense because you would like another blade to fail over and be back up and running as quickly as possible.

Useful BOFM Links:

BOFM Manual

BOFM Technical Doc (explains Advanced BOFM and hot spare set up)

BOFM File Reference (Go under Reference -> Components -> Configuration File)

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