iDRAC and iLO: A Primer to Dell and H.P.’s Remote Access Tools for Enterprise Servers
A prominent feature of Enterprise servers are the remote service tools that are embedded in the hardware; specifically, Dell’s iDRAC (Integrated Dell Remote Access Controller) and H.P.’s iLO (Integrated Lights Out). These proprietary remote access tools allow you to do all sorts of things regarding set-up and checking on a server’s health without needing to be physically present (and you don’t even need to be on the same network).
In this post, we’ll cover the high-level functions of these tools and cover the subtle differences between their versions.
|TERMINOLOGY BACKGROUND – Both iDRAC and iLO are propriety tools based on the IPMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface) standard. There are other generic versions of this standard that allow for remote hardware control and management. When you hear “IPMI,” it refers to the standard protocols that these management software tools utilize.
Key Features of iDRAC and iLO
The main features of both iDRAC and iLO Dell & HP remote access tools when it comes to remote management:
- They have a web-based interface that allows you to check on a server’s status & health and update and configure it remotely.
- It’s embedded in the hardware. Both tools have a dedicated network port for connectivity, and the tool comes preinstalled in the server.
- It’s integrated into hardware. So should the device’s O.S. crash, you can still access the server (whereas if you were using an O.S. remote access tool, this would not be possible).
- It’s an Out of Band System – which means the server can be accessed remotely by a user outside its network.
Dell’s iDRAC Express vs. Enterprise
iDRAC comes in two flavors: Express and Enterprise. The Express version allows much of the same functionality as the Enterprise – sans a couple of key features:
- Only the Enterprise version provides the Java KVM console.
- Only the Enterprise version uses the dedicated NIC (in other words, using an existing NIC port for iDRAC Express could limit your network options).
iDRAC Express comes bundled in all Dell rack servers and is turned on by default when you first power up the server.
Because iDRAC is integrated with the server’s hardware, the licenses are not transferable. That said, any iDRAC Express license can be upgraded to the Enterprise version – the only caveat being that some of Dell’s lower-end servers, e.g., R400 and R500 series, will NOT have the dedicated iDRAC port. That module would need to be procured to upgrade that server to run the Enterprise version.
You can view Dell’s page on iDRAC7 and 8 (compatible with Dell 12th and 13th Gen servers) here.
H.P.’s ILO: Standard vs. Advanced
H.P.’s iLO also comes in two primary flavors for their rack server line: Standard and Advanced. The main advantage of the Advanced version are some remote console and media functions. You can view a features comparison table for iLO in H.P.’s Gen8 and Gen9 servers here.
Like with iDRAC, iLO’s license is tied to the server and cannot be transferred between devices.
Enterprise rack servers were designed with remote management in mind. What level of control and what features you require is dependent on your utilization and server environment.
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