Eye on Blades Blog: Trends in Infrastructure
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Displaying articles for: November 2008

Why Blades? Less wires.

There are a lot of reasons to move to blades and we love to include most, if not all in our typical sales pitch. Power, cooling, space, money, time, flexiblity, yada, yada, yada. But today, I just want to talk about one aspect of Why Blades: Less wires (or 'dramatic cable consolidation' in IT marketing speak)

You probably don't think about wires very often.  They're pretty boring.  They're pretty common.  They're also a pretty big pain in the butt. Watch these videoes and you'll see what I mean.

Sometimes you have to take step back and see something like this to recognize that even small improvements can make a really big difference in your day to day life. 

HP blade cut cables up to 94%.  That's comparining all the power, network, SAN and management cables you need for 42 typical rack servers versus blade servers.  Add something like Virtual Connect to that equation, and you can save several administrators a ton of time in having to deal with moving servers or their LAN and SAN connections. Plus you can add another 4 to 1 consolidation on switches, NICs and core switch ports with Virtual Connect Flex-10. 

Do you realize that once your BladeSystem is wired, you many never have to touch a cable again until you decide to take it offline someday?  We tell customers all the time, if you're using blades and go with patch panels instead of Virtual Connect or blade switches, you're missing out on one of the biggest advantages of going with blades.

Here's my quick list of why we hate wires:

  • They cost a lot of money.  Long Ethernet cables are pretty expensive, especially multiplied by 100's or 1000's.  Don't even get me started on Fibre Channel cables. 

  • Wires connect to other things that cost even more money.  Have you checked Cisco's 10Gb core switch prices on a per port basis?  Ouch.

  • Every wire is a potential point of failure.  This was really brought home for us the other day when a customer talked about how they eliminated something like 20,000 cables by going to blades.  He said, "I don't even know how to start calculating the improvement in 'mean time between failures' (MTBF) of that!!!"

  • Moving one server means moving a bunch of wires, a bunch of reconfiguring and bunch of time of your other colleagues on the LAN and SAN side. Sometimes it even means moving the wires of other servers you don't want to mess with.

  • How many hours a year do you figure you spend installing, troubleshooting and untangling wires?  Don't you have something better to do?  Like checking out the latest on the HP blade blog?

Do you have a cable nightmare story or picture to share?  How about a major cable improvement since you moved to blades.  Share!


10Gb Ethernet: Divide and Conquer with Virtual Connect Flex-10

Moore's law has usually been used to predict general trends in semiconductors.  While not exactly a perfect analogy, we have seen trends in interconnect bandwidth increase.  Ethernet has seen bandwidth increase ten-fold every few years, with the latest transition to 10Gb.  Usually these transitions take a while because the costs to transition are high, and the transition to 10Gb has followed that trajectory - until now.

Yesterday we announced an exciting new technology: Virtual Connect Flex-10.  We've figured out a way to deliver 10Gb Ethernet technology at a price lower than what many people are spending on 1Gb technology today.  As a result we can help customers get onto 10Gb technology sooner than they otherwise could have done before.

We've noticed that many customers are buying four or more NICs for their servers, sometimes due to bandwidth constraints, other times due to network segmentation or security constraints, and usually for redundancy.  As a result, customers spend an awful lot on a bunch of 1Gb networks.  We figured out that we could help customers by providing a 10Gb network connection that can be divided into up to four connections, replacing the need for up to four NICs.  By doing this we conquer the high price for 10Gb Ethernet connectivity by delivering up to 8 network connections at costs that are less than what many customers pay for four 1Gb connections. At the same time they can allocate more bandwidth for one or more links or maintain the multiple connections they want for security reasons, or do a combination of both.  And to top it all off, Virtual Connect takes less space and power too.  We think this is very cool.

Bottom line: more bandwidth, more flexibility, less costs and less power.  More of what you want and less of what you don't want.  We think this is a good combination.  This is why we believe the quickest, most affordable way to move to 10Gb is Virtual Connect Flex-10, and the time to do it is now.

Rethinking networks for virtual servers

The earth is flat.  Men can't fly.  Chewing gum takes 7 years to travel the digestive track. 

The point of these, and many other bad examples of 'conventional wisdom' is that far too often we accept what seems to be reasonable advice or thinking. Usually because:

1. We've heard it our whole lives
2. Everyone else thinks the same thing or does it the same way
3. It kind of makes sense

If there's one thing our blade engineers are great at, it's challenging conventional wisdom.  Their latest challenge: why do server to network connections have to be one-to-one and why is the speed of each connection fixed?  They said, "Today's network model costs too much, burns too much power and is completely inflexible."

For example, if you want to add a network port on a blade server, you need a NIC, a switch and a cable.  Want 8 network ports per server?  Multiply by 8.  If the network is 1 or 10Gb/s, guess what?  All your connections are 1 or 10Gb/s too!  Nothing in between.  For a variety of reasons, Cisco and others have perpetuated this process for years. 

Enter the age of the virtual server. 

The requirements of virtual servers have already had a dramatic impact on the fundmentals of servers and storage design.  More cores, more memory, more capacity.  But one area untouched until now has been the network layer.  Sure, VMware has 'virtual NICs' and 'virtual switches', but it's done via software and doesn't do anything to address the underlying issues: you still need a lot of physical NICs, switches, and more bandwidth. 

Here's what our team came up with, divide the total capacity of one 10Gb pipe into 4 server ports, then add the ability to fine-tune the bandwidth of each port, so you can give more or less performance to different virtual machines.  The end result is 66% less cost in network equipment from a 4 to 1 consolidation of switches, 65% less power used and great performance from 10Gb speeds built-in.

Take this guided tour and see how Virtual Connect Flex-10 is the next big shake up of conventional wisdom in the network world. 

Today, the virtualization discussion is about virtual servers and storage.  In 2009, virtual I/O and virtual networks are the new frontiers for huge innovation and as a result; another round of consolidation and cost savings in the data center.

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About the Author(s)
  • More than 25 years in the IT industry developing and managing marketing programs. Focused in emerging technologies like Virtualization, cloud and big data.
  • I am a member of the Enterprise Group Global Marketing team blogging on topics of interest for HP Servers. Check out blog posts on all four Server blog sites-Reality Check, The Eye on Blades, Mission Critical Computing and Hyperscale Computing- for exciting news on the future of compute.
  • I work within EMEA HP Servers Central Team as a launch manager for new products and general communications manager for EMEA HP Server specific information. I also tweet @ServerSavvyElla
  • HP Servers, Converged Infrastructure, Converged Systems and ExpertOne
  • WW responsibility for development of ROI and TCO tools for the entire ISS portfolio. Technical expertise with a financial spin to help IT show the business value of their projects.
  • I am a member of the HP BladeSystem Portfolio Marketing team, so my posts will focus on all things blades and blade infrastructure. Enjoy!
  • Luke Oda is a member of the HP's BCS Marketing team. With a primary focus on marketing programs that support HP's BCS portfolio. His interests include all things mission-critical and the continuing innovation that HP demonstrates across the globe.
  • Global Marketing Manager with 15 years experience in the high-tech industry.
  • 20 years of marketing experience in semiconductors, networking and servers. Focused on HP BladeSystem networking supporting Virtual Connect, interconnects and network adapters.
  • Working with HP BladeSystem.
  • Greetings! I am on the HP Enterprise Group marketing team. Topics I am interested in include Converged Infrastructure, Converged Systems and Management, and HP BladeSystem.
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