Eye on Blades Blog: Trends in Infrastructure
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I/O Virtualization, Open Systems and Customer Choice

This blog was originally posted on the Egenera web site at http://blog.egenera.com/.  It is cross posted here to make it easy to find. 


For the longest time applications were welded to their server.  If the hardware needed maintenance or suffered a component failure, the application was down until the hardware was repaired.  If the application required higher performance, it had to be reinstalled on new hardware.  Egenera was the first company to offer commercially viable I/O virtualization technologies.  This separated the application from a specific piece of hardware.  Now if a server goes down, you can seamlessly move it to a standby server.  If the application needs more performance, you can migrate it to a more capable platform in the time it takes to reboot the server.


Today, every major server vendor has an I/O virtualization product. What’s different about this week’s announcement is that brings Egenera’s Pan Manager to the HP Virtual Connect FlexFabric Module, combining their pioneering software capabilities with the industries best-selling blade server platform. 


I had the privilege of working on the joint HP & Egenera team that developed the announcement materials.  As the technical guy in a team it was a good learning experience.  In bringing the two companies together I found things we share in common, and things that differentiate us.  Take differences in terminology for example.  In BladeSystem we use the term local I/O to refer to disk or tape directly attached to the blade servers through PCI or SAS connections.  For Egenera, local I/O meant bringing the Ethernet and Fibre Channel connections directly to the blade enclosure.  In all their previous implementations, Egenera brought these connections to the PAN Manager then distributed it over the PAN Manager Fabric.  With Virtual Connect FlexFabric module, the PAN Manager is only used to run the management software.  This provides five to ten times the bandwidth per server compared to the other PAN Manager solutions.


Another difference I found was multi-tenancy.  When I went to Egenera’s headquarters to get a demonstration of their software we discussed the similarities and differences.  Much of the functionality in PAN Manager is similar to Virtual Connect Manager (VCM), but there are some differences.  PAN Manager requires SAN boot, where VCM makes it an option.  PAN Manager natively supports automated HA failover where VCM requires SIM to trigger the failover.  The thing the Egenera team took for granted that jumped out at me was multi-tenancy.  They just expected multi-tenancy to be there. 


Multi-tenancy is the ability to dedicate a portion of the environment to different users.  So Sally can have her servers, network and storage, and Bill can have his, but neither user can see what belongs to the other.  Now most users don’t require multi-tenancy, but if you need it PAN Manager has it.  So whenever you see the term multi-tenancy in the announcement materials, you know that highlighting this Egenera feature was one of my contributions.

The most striking thing I found both companies have in common is a commitment to open solutions and customer choice.  Customer choice is the hallmark of today’s IT industry.  While some in the industry are making moves to reduce customer choice, this announcement is another proof point on HP and Egenera’s commitment to open solutions.  Egenera offers four platforms for Pan Manager, Egenera’s own Bladeframe, HP BladeSystem, Fujitsu and Dell blades.  HP offers more I/O options for BladeSystem than any other company including options from BNT, Broadcom, Brocade, Cisco, Emulex, HP, Qlogic and Voltaire.  This announcement is proof positive of HP and Egenera’s commitment to open solutions and choice.


Disclaimer:  While I work for HP, and this blog is hosted on Egenera’s website, these opinions are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of either company.  Follow me at @BladeGuy on Twitter and the Eye on Blades Blog

my cosplay | ‎05-04-2011 10:08 AM

 I have the same opinion with most of your points, however a few need to be discussed further, I will hold a small discussion with my buddies and perhaps I will ask you some advice shortly.

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About the Author
Ken is a cloud Architect in the CloudSystem team. Ken focuses on software, servers, Virtual Connect, networking and server virtualization to...

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