Dell Force10 Switches

Further to the following tweets:
@andrewrmoreland probably a bit easier to answer in Forums if you don"t mind posting some more detail.— Don Jones (@concentrateddon) February 2, 2015

We are currently designing a new platform - a key component of which is Powershell DSC.

We asked Dell to do a demo of the Force 10 switches specifically the S55 and S4810 models. When we got onto the topic of automation - Dell kept referring to Open Automation Framework (OAF) (I’m still laughing at the acronym) using REST API’s and didn’t seem to have any knowledge of Powershell DSC.

I was starting to doubt whether or not Powershell DSC could be used i.e. is the switch capable of taking a Powershell generated MOF file itself or does it rely on a ‘Management machine’ interacting with OAF? If it does support Powershell DSC - does it support a Pull Server as well as Push?

Any demos or further information would be greatly appreciated - especially if we can give them back to Dell pre-sales!!

P.S. Just found the following video on Channel 9 - At 37.14 it shows a Powershell DSC generated MOF file being pushed to the switch. I guess that answers my questions, but any additional details anyone can share would be great.

Yeah, Dell’s been a bit behind on PowerShell in general.

FOR THE MOST PART, you’ll find that only Windows machines can accept a DSC MOF; certain builds of Linux running Microsoft’s DSC stack can also accept a DSC MOF. So I seriously doubt the switch can accept the MOF natively. I’m not sure what kind of switch was being demo’d in the video, but it matters. The switch would need to natively support the MOF. While MOF is a standard format, the switch would still need to know what to do with it. Not all switches do.

That said, you could set up a middleman. That is, a Windows machine that accepts a MOF, and which contains DSC resources that can then reach out and configure the switch accordingly. The Windows machine does the thinking, in other words. But this isn’t going to magically happen; you’d need to have a DSC Resource on that Windows machine which was capable of reaching out to the switch via whatever protocols the switch itself supports (e.g., REST).

Dell’s OAF (yeah, agreed) is their own implementation of a DSC-like concept. Basically, on boot, the switch goes to a DHCP server and looks for a specific DHCP option, which points it to a file server. It then pulls a configuration file from said file server. That’s conceptually similar to what DSC does - but the configuration file the switch looks for isn’t a DSC MOF, it’s a different kind of file. The Force10 configuration file is usually created by dumping the config from an existing switch - it isn’t a MOF. That’s actually pretty standard, in approach, for network infrastructure hardware.

Agree with everything you have said, however the video does show the MOF file being pushed at the switch directly. Jeffery Snover also made this comment on twitter a while ago: Surely he wouldn’t be wrong!

So, my point was, “yes, in general if a switch has been designed to accept a DSC MOF, then it can; otherwise, it cannot.” I haven’t watched that video and I’ve no idea if the model/OS version he showed is the same as the one you’re interested in.

Maybe I’m unclear on the question.

If it’s, “Hey, Snover said this is possible but Dell doesn’t seem to know anything about it,” then it seems like that’s a conversation for Dell. Or just get a demo unit from them and try it. I don’t personally have any knowledge of the Force10 models you specify being compatible or not compatible - if that’s the information you were after, then I apologize for not realizing it.

Sure - my assumption was that it would be widely known amongst Powershell evangalists if a vendor had released a switch that accepts a DSC MOF. Apologies!

From what I understand there are two switches - S55 and S4810 from Dell that support this - they are also in the Microsoft CPS.

Some technical reps that we have spoken to at Dell have no knowledge of Powershell DSC and these switches, I guess we will need to buy one and play with it as you suggest, I had wanted to validate that my understanding was correct before I pushed Dell harder.

Yeah, the vendors are kinda all over the place. The proof is in the pudding - I’d definitely try it. “Supports” and “actually works” are two different things, too!

I’ll share our experience if we end up trying one!

We have some s55’s i’m trying to get a my hands on a spare just to try this out. Our Dell guy that comes out every month is aware of it and said they need a different firmware. I’m also told Dell is going all in with the DSC options and will eventualy have it on all the network switches, routers and iDRAC. however I would not be supprized if it requires something in the middle that takes the MOF and then talks to the switches.

Good to hear - the firmware thing doesn’t shock me. And honestly, you might not need a middleman. It’d be easy enough to specify a DHCP option that specifies the pull server location, and then you’d just need a way for the switch to know which config to pull - e.g., a GUID or something. Nice to hear Dell is onboard!

David - that’s great to hear. Do you have a Dell contact that I can point ours at?