Eye on Blades Blog: Trends in Infrastructure
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Displaying articles for: March 2010

Is FCoE a myth?

Over the last year or so, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with a number of customers about the emerging Fibre Channel over Ethernet standard.  The idea of converging Ethernet and Fibre Channel sounds instantly appealing, but the realities of large scale implementations have many caveats with them.  Last week Gartner published a paper on FCoE titled “Myth: Single FCoE Data Center Network = Fewer Ports, Less Complexity and Lower Costs”.

Given the release of this paper, I thought it would be a good time for me to share some thoughts on FCoE as well.  From my experience, not all customers are aware of some important considerations when evaluating deployments of FCoE.  In no particular order.,.

1. While FCoE can converge ports at the server edge, the total bandwidth remains the same.  So as you go to aggregation and core, the number of ports required to run 8Gb FC or 10Gb Ethernet will likely remain roughly the same or greater.  Replacing relatively inexpensive lossy Ethernet switches with 10Gb lossless ones may actually increase costs substantially.

2. FCoE is literally Fibre Channel running on top of enhanced Ethernet, so both protocols need to be managed.  This may reduce expected management savings.

3. For IT organizations with both a LAN and SAN team, FCoE will likely add a new dependence of the SAN team onto the LAN team.  This could slow down IT change events as more teams are involved in routine provisioning and maintenance operations.

4. FCoE requires lossless Ethernet to operate properly.  Most switches deployed in customer data centers today lack the hardware to support this.  As a result, implementing FCoE will typically require a large-scale replacement of switch hardware.  Most SAN arrays do not support FCoE natively and would also need to be replaced to support end-to-end FCoE.

5. The lossless Ethernet (DCB) that FCoE is dependent on is not yet ratified by the IEEE.   One new protocol for congestion notification across multiple hops (QCN) requires new silicon to fully implement.  Even the newer FCoE enabled switches lack the necessary silicon hardware to support QCN, so full implementations will require next generation switches.

FCoE is an interesting concept, but multi-hop FCoE is a bit premature.  The standards that take this from a concept to a reality are being fleshed out as we speak by the IEEE DCB Workgroup.  For more information on the status of DCB, see: http://www.ieee802.org/1/pages/dcbridges.html.


Isn't it time YOU considered Client Virtualization?

The world sure has gotten complex, hasn’t it?

Did you know that over 10,000 laptops are lost or stolen at airports each week?  That’s right.  In fact, according to the FBI, 2 million laptops are reported stolen every year and 97 percent of them are never recovered.  Has this ever happened to you, to one of your co-workers, or to one of your friends?  I wonder how many of those were company issued systems for employee use while on the road.  I also wonder how many of those laptops have sensitive company information on them, like product specs and customer info?  What about important corporate financial data or HR specifics like salaries, bonuses, and social security numbers?  I shudder at the thought.

Switching gears a bit, a number of my friends and colleagues have been caught up in the snow storms on the eastern coast of the US.  In addition to making them break out the heavy duty snow shovel, sometimes it keeps them from getting to the office to do their job.  And speaking of offices light on staff, remember the H1N1 scare recently?  Corporations wanted to limit the spread of these illnesses, but they were still on the hook with their customers to fulfill their SLAs, which meant that these corporations still needed their employees to perform their jobs to keep the business going.  And think back to the last time you were on the road, and needed access to your applications and sensitive data.  Was it a training session across town?  Or was it a conference the next state or province over? Perhaps it was a customer visit overseas.  (Or maybe it was even on vacation at a beach house – don’t worry, your secret is safe with me.)

And let’s think about our friends in the IT department (maybe that’s you).  Windows 7 was announced recently, and many companies are already taking strides to implement it across their organizations.  Think about the last operating system upgrade your company did.  How long did it take to get the whole company onto the new OS?   Did it ever get there completely?  How many support cases would you guess were generated in that transition?  Maybe your company has specialized or custom applications to enable business - how long did it take for your applications to be supported on the new operating system? 

It all sounds a bit daunting, I know.  But it’s the world we live in now, so we need to plan for it and implement solutions that address these issues. 

Have you considered client virtualization?

With client virtualization (technologies like application virtualization, VDI, and workstation blades), data is stored in the data center, where you’ve invested heavily to ensure security. It provides users anytime/anywhere access of their applications and data, and there’s no need to be tied to a single computing paradigm or physical workplace.  And client virtualization simplifies software and hardware management and maximizes resource utilization.

And HP Client Virtualization Solutions get you there with the strength, experience, and innovation you’ve come to expect from the world’s largest technology company, offering the industry’s best end to end technology and services portfolio.  From thin clients to servers and server blades, from networking to storage, and from management software to services, HP has client virtualization covered.

Where are you with client virtualization?  Interested?  Investigating?  Full on, in-production environments?  I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on the subject - where you are with this technology, where you feel we'll be as a technology space in the future, etc - feel free to leave a comment below. 

Until next time,

Joseph George
HP Client Virtualization Team

Customizing the Matrix Self Service Portal

I was playing around with the BladeSystem Matrix creating some new demo videos, and I thought why not dig into the portal skinning features to create a custom look for my system.

The skinning feature is intended to let companies personalize the portal with their logos and product names, replacing the standard HP skin that ships with the product. In this example, my customer is the fictitious Acme Corporation.

Here are the steps I went through:

  1. Copy C:\Program Files\HP\Insight Orchestration\webapps\hpio-portal.war to my desktop

  2. Rename to hpio-portal.zip

  3. Copy hpio-portal.zip to hpio-portal.orig.zip

  4. Unzip hpio-portal.zip

  5. Browse to the hpio-portal/skins directory, and create a new folder "acme". You should see the following:

  6. Copy your new images into the acme directory. The image names, format, and recommended sizes are shown in the table below. I found there is minor flexibility in the sizes of images you create, but in general things look a little nicer if you stick to the sizes shown in the table.



    Recommended Size in pixels
    (w x h)



    90 x 72



    408 x 287



    42 x 26



    300 x 40

  7. Edit the skinConfig.xml file in the skins directory. Here's my updated content:

         <property><key> personalizeMode                 </key><value>insight</value></property>
         <property><key> skinName                        </key><value>acme</value></property>
         <property><key> brandName                       </key><value>Acme Corporation</value></property>
         <property><key> portalName                      </key><value>Developer Self Service</value></property>
         <property><key> bsaURL                               </key><value></value></property>

  8. rezip hpio-portal directory
    Once you have re-zipped hpio-portal, you might want to open it and check that the top component of the zip file is the contents of the hpio-portal folder, and not a folder called "hpio-portal". Windows XP zip default behavior is to create that top level folder in the zip archive. Compare with the contents of hpio-portal.orig.zip to make sure you get this correct. Otherwise your portal won't restart correctly in the later steps.

  9. rename hpio-portal.zip to myportal.war file

  10. Stop the Insight Orchestration service

  11. Rename C:\Program Files\HP\Insight Orchestration\webapps\hpio-portal.war to hpio-portal.war.orig

  12. Copy myportal.war to C:\Program Files\HP\Insight Orchestration\webapps\hpio-portal.war

  13. Delete the folder in the C:\Program Files\HP\Insight Orchestration\work directory with a name starting with Jetty and containing the name hpio.portal.war

  14. Start the Insight Orchestration service

 Updated Portal

Here's my updated login screen to the self service portal, and a zoom in on the updated window bar after login is complete.


ioconfig Command

The ioconfig command in the C:\Program Files\HP\Insight Orchestration\bin folder is a useful utility that lets you switch between skins, for example: ioconfig --skin insight will change back to original skin. See ioconfig --help for more information on this command and options.

Send your examples

I hope this quick overview is helpful to getting you started. Send me examples of your self-service portal customizations!

The Xeon E5520: Popular for VMWare

Kevin Houston recently asked which Intel Xeon 5500-series processor was most popular for running VMWare.  My short answer: Probably the 2.26GHz Xeon E5520.   Long answer follows...

Intel makes more than a dozen different speeds of the Xeon 5500 series processor. Why so many?  One reason is that Intel divides them up into three different groups, based on their features.  Within each group, there's 3 or 4 different models, each with a different CPU clock frequency.

The Advanced group of processors include full-speed links & features; the Standard have the features but slower links, and the Basic group lacks Hyper-Threading & Turbo Boost:

Category QPI throughput Memory speed Hyper-Threading Max Turbo Boost
Advanced 6.40 GT/s 1333 MT/s Yes +400 MHz
Standard 5.86 GT/s 1066 MT/s Yes +266 MHz
Basic 4.80 GT/s 800 MT/s No None

So which ones are popular for virtualization?  I found a good proxy for estimating this: searching for how often each model is mentioned in the VMWare community forums.  There, four models rise to the top: The E5504, the E5520, the X5550, and the X5570The E5520 gets the winner's ribbon for most-mentioned.

Why these four?  I believe 3 of the 4 are popular because they're the best price/performance within each of Intel's groups.  The last get attention because it's the fastest generally-available Xeon 5500 processor.

To show why the price/performance stands out for the E5504 (a "Basic" processor), E5520 (a "Standard"), and X5550 (an "Advanced"), compare Intel's "1ku" list price (basically their bulk-rate prices) to a processor-oriented benchmark result.  I've picked the SPECcpu2006 integer rate benchmark for two reasons: One, it's an established benchmark with lots of published results, and two, the benchmark it's so processor-focused that you usually get the same results no matter what server -- or server vendor -- you use.

I created a Yahoo Pipe that scrapes benchmark results from SPEC.org and processor list prices from Intel, then plots them using a Google chart.  Just for fun, I've listed the latest 2-processor AMD Opteron results too.  Here's a link to the pipe itself (it's actually a series of pipes.)  Although the Yahoo pipe is dynamic, on this blog I'm just going to post a static picture of the chart that it produces:

Each processor model is plotted by list price (vertical axis) and cpu2006_rate (horizontal axis).   The further right on the chart, the more performance; the further up, the more expensive.

You'll notice that the results fall into three vertical bands, with the dual-core E5502 as an outlier.  Within each band, the SPECint results don't change much, but the price does:

That means within these bands, you might as well pick the cheapest processor, because you don't get much extra horsepower by moving to a pricier CPU.  What are the cheapest within each band? It's those 3 models that get all the discussion on the VMWare forums. 

As I said, the fourth popular model is the X5570, which is the fastest "normal" Xeon 5500 series processor.   (The two W-model processors are actually faster, but since they're geared toward workstations and not servers, they're not as commonly available.)  So what makes the E5520 the apparent king of the popularity contest?  Probably because it's the cheapest Xeon 5500 processor that's got Hyper-Threading.

So how does this VMWare Communities "proxy" compare to what processors HP ships on its ProLiant servers?  Well, it's pretty close. Across all ProLiant servers, six models stand out: the four above, plus the E5540 (a "Standard") and the L5520 (a special Low-Power "Standard").

If you just consider ProLiant server blades, the E5504 drops off that short-list, while the L5520 gets a lot of use, and the X5570 gets heavier representation than my "VMWare communities proxy" would suggest. This makes sense to me, since folks deploying blades tend to be more interested in power-reducing and maximum-performance features.

Labels: Intel| price| SPEC| xeon
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  • 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
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  • 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.
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  • 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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