Eye on Blades Blog: Trends in Infrastructure
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Displaying articles for: April 2009

Better, Faster, Cheaper – choose three

Better, Faster, Cheaper – choose three


It’s the normal course of life that when the above choices come your way, you get to only choose two.


But every once in a great while, things go your way and you get to choose all three.  Here is one of those cherished moments.


HP’s Virtual Connect Enterprise Manager, or VCEM for short, is a product that works with HP Virtual Connect. Basically, it handles set-up and mobility for a large number of server LAN and SAN connections across the data center vs. working with each managed switch console. It also manages all your MAC and WWN addresses so you can eliminate the tons of spreadsheets filled with those addresses that are typically needed for a large number of managed switches. This eliminates an opportunity for BIG mistakes.


Now we have just come out with VCEM V1.30. And of course we made it better and faster. First we added support for our fastest Virtual Connect Fibre Channel interconnect, the new Virtual Connect 8 Gb 24-Port Fibre Channel module.  Then we extended the number of supported Virtual Connect domains to 200.  When combined with VC multi-enclosure stacking, Virtual Connect Enterprise Manager can simplify the set-up and ongoing management of server I/O for up to 800 BladeSystem enclosures. Or put another way, up to 12,800 servers!  Giving system administrators the ability to manage the connectivity of up to 12,800 servers will go a long way to making life simpler and less expensive for many of you.


So speaking of cheaper, in addition to the above improvements, we have just lowered the price of VCEM! Licensed on a per enclosure basis, VCEM V1.30 is now only $4,999 for a c7000 enclosure. And for our c3000 “Shorty” enclosure, its only $2,499. This represents a price reduction of almost 30%.


So there you have it. Better, Faster and Cheaper. It’s a better day already.


Mike Kendall


 

HP and Microsoft launch new integrated BladeSystem management offering

As HP continues the vision of "Open Systems" for the Adaptive Infrastructure and choice for our partners and customers, we announced an new integrated offering with Microsoft.

In a press release today:

"HP today announced HP Insight Control suite for Microsoft® System Center (HP ICE-SC), the industry’s first integrated management environment to lower infrastructure costs and improve uptime of HP server and Microsoft software environments.

By integrating the server management features of HP ProLiant and HP BladeSystem into Microsoft System Center consoles, administrators can gain increased visibility into, and greater control of, their technology environments. This enhanced visibility into the health of IT systems enables a faster response in the event of server failure, reducing the risk of downtime. By automating server deployments and updates, administrative productivity is also greatly improved.
A crucial part of the HP Adaptive Infrastructure strategy is to provide the strongest management experience for HP ProLiant and BladeSystem servers. The new HP ICE-SC enables administrators to monitor and respond to software and hardware events through the Microsoft System Center consoles. This includes:




  • Server health warnings and prefailure condition alerts with Microsoft System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) 2007;


  • Proactive virtual machine management using Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) 2008; and


  • Enhanced configuration management via Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) 2007.

HP ICE-SC also provides more than 25 performance and resource optimization tips for Microsoft SCVMM, including recommended actions for host system alerts and events. Greater insight into the relationship between host and virtual machines allows administrators to resolve potential server performance problems to maintain maximum uptime."

Here is the link to the entire press release:
http://www.hp.com/hpinfo/newsroom/press/2009/090428c.html

What's new for blades in plain language

Today, we launched some new and updated technologies that I thought you might find useful.  Here's the news in language as plain as it gets in IT. 


Our Virtual Connect interconnect porfolio was updated in two ways. 




The other news today was the update of our 4 processor, ProLiant BL685c blade server.  Basically, the new G6 version dobules the supported memory per blade versus the older, G5 version.  That's 32 DIMM sockets and 256Gb of memory per blade.  We made this move to remove a key bottleneck -- memory performance, to btake advantage of the new quad-core AMD processors and to support more VM's or big applications per blade.


If you have more questions, leave them below and our experts will fill you in on all the technical details.  In the future, visit this site to keep up to date with other blade news.

Just for Fun Friday: Why Servers Rock video!

One of the BEST videos I've seen in awhile about a very unsexy story - servers.  Steve Brown at Intel did this and it's great.  Even your mom will understand servers after seeing this.




Have a great weekend!

Ever have the issue of having the EEPROM fail on a blade enclosure?

I had a Blade Specialist ask what happens when the EEPROM fails on the BladeSystem Enclosure.


First of all, just what does the EEPROM do for the blade enclosure.

The c-Class Architecture documents on the mid-plane says as the following.

http://h20000.www2.hp.com/bc/docs/support/SupportManual/c00810839/c00810839.pdf
"The only active device is an Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory (EEPROM), which the Onboard Administrator uses to acquire information such as the midplane serial number. If this device were to fail, it would not affect the signaling functionality of the NonStop signal midplane."

Question:
Does this mean the blade server and interconnect device will have no problem and keep running even if the EEPROM fails and the information on this device is completedly lost ?

Answer:
When and if the EEPROM fails, it fails "safe" and results in no loss of functionality. It is not in the signal path of anything. It is 'active' in the sense that it is a powered device, but its activities are completely passive, basically to contain information that the OA can query about serial number as stated below and some Field Replaceable Unit information.

Does OA work fine continuously ?     YES
Does Blade server "Boot" normally ? YES
Does iLO access work fine ?            YES
Is the Virtual Connect profile still applicable ?           YES

Another winner …

As many of our readers know, HP Virtual Connect is not only a technology that enables them to connect more while spending less, but that it is also an industry award winning technology.


One of our newest members of the Virtual Connect family is HP Virtual Connect Enterprise Manager. This fine piece of engineering allows IT teams to simplify the set-up and ongoing management of server I/O for up to 800 BladeSystem enclosures or put another way, up to 12,800 servers!  Enabling system administrators the ability to manage the connectivity of up to 12,800 servers goes a long way to making life simpler and less expensive for many of our customers.


Apparently we’re not the only ones thinking that Virtual Connect Enterprise Manager, or VCEM, is pretty spiffy. It turns out that VCEM was just named as a first place winner of the Virtualization Journal Readers' Choice Awards. Read on for details!

SYS-CON Media, the world's leading i-technology media and events company, has announced the winners of its Virtualization Journal Readers' Choice Awards.  SYS-CON's Readers' Choice Awards, also known as the “Oscars of the Software Industry,” has been one of the most prestigious industry award programs for over a decade.  The Virtualization Journal Readers' Choice Awards recognize the best tools, solutions, and platform offerings in 18 categories. Winners were selected through reader-submitted nominations, followed by online voting at SYS-CON Media's world-leading Virtualization Journal online magazine site.

Best Grid Virtualization:  Winner - HP Virtual Connect Enterprise Manager, Hewlett-Packard


Mike Kendall


 

DAS storage inspired by Burger King

Here's the deal.  Have you every wondered why there most server vendors offer 6 to 12 different x86 dual processor server models?  Answer: The variation is needed to match different workload requirements.  Makes sense, right?  Different apps need different stuff.  The only problem is that variation is costs a lot of money.  That's 6 different ways to do things, with different spares, manuals, firmware versions, and on and on and on.  It's just a enough difference to be a real pain in the rear-end. 


If this is such a pain, you might ask why don't more folks go diskless on the server, standardize the server models and rely only on a SAN or shared storage.  Well, direct attached storage or DAS in each server has a some trump cards.  The are simple, cheap, fast and reliable. 


But the #1 reason for so much variation in servers is because of the drives.  Drives take a lot of space and drive a lot of design variation.  Sure, memory and PCI slots can, but not like dealing with those mechanical, spinning disks. Some servers have 2 drives, some have 6, some have 12.  Nevermind if you really only need 3, or 7 or 9.


Let's take the example of a Dell 2870.  6 drives in 2U. I'm guessing it would be 1U or less if you just dropped the drives.   Or 15 drives in 5U or 8 3/4 inches of rack space.  What if you had 70 drives in 5U, available to dozens of servers.  And you could decide EXACTLY how many drives belonged to each server?  1, 5 13, 63?  Like Burger King, the MDS600 lets you have it your way.


 


 


Direct Connect - what it means

Why is Matrix important? Innovation, integration and execution

Welcome to the wacky world of IT news.  We had high hopes that we'd have a few minutes of open air time on Monday to tell the world about the BladeSystem Matrix.  Thank you very much Mr. Ellison for sucking the air out of the room.



Now that the Oracle/Sun news is taking a breath, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge some folks who paid attention and to add some other thoughts about why Matrix is important.


First, a tip of the hat to Gordon Haff for listening. 

His article A Matrix of HP Blades, tells me that he gets what is most important about Matrix.  Is Matrix important because of innovation?  Yes.  But most of the innovations came to market in the last 6 to 24 months. Only Virtual Connect Flex-10 and the update to Virtual Connect 8Gb FC are brand-spanking new on April 20th.  Is Matrix about integration?  Most certainly.  It may not sound sexy, but it was the old-fashioned heavy-lifting to integrate Matrix within the standards and investments in data centers around the world that make it stand out.  Finally, is Matrix about execution?  More than any thing else.  In fact, the HP blade strategy is ALL about execution. That means delivering the innovations we promise and the integration that our customer expect. 


The fact is, this is a long race. HP is in it for the long haul.  Declaring that you change the game with a press release just doesn't make it so.  It's all about "show me", not chest thumping, back-slapping or peacocking.  Sometimes, it just takes a committment and a lot of hard-work behind the scenes to take innovation, make is simple to integrate and then to actually deliver it.  The Steve Jobs launch keynote aside, the iPOD wasn't a game-changing innovation.  It was the integration and execution that did that.



You see, BladeSystem Matrix
is all about enhancement and integration into what you have today. In fact,
I’ll let you in on a little secret.  There are no new standards or
requirements to overhaul your network and storage equipment with Matrix. Inside
is standard Ethernet, but with 4 to 1 consolidation of equipment, 10Gb
performance and the ability to fine-tune that bandwidth to your application
needs. Regular Fibre Channel is inside, but with 65 percent less equipment
costs and 8Gb speeds.  Proven management is there too, but kicked up with
accurate capacity advice and planning, power-aware provisioning, disaster
recovery, an automated workflow engine and a slick, self-service portal to
deploy applications fast based on templates you design.  It also supports
familiar Integrity or ProLiant blade server models and all your OS’s,
hypervisors and applications without touching the code. 

 



All we did with BladeSystem Matrix was
take the time to improve the integration of these technologies to deliver to
you a better infrastructure that simply works the way you would expect it to,
what what you have today.  All of the capabilities inside have been proven
over the last few years in real-world, production environments.  You don’t
need to rethink or re-engineer your architectures, team roles or IT
processes. 
Matrix simply
helps you make what you have in place now, more effective and efficient.   If
you don't notice all the cool stuff and complex engineering it took to deliver
simplicity, you won't hurt our feelings.  
 

 



Finally, that work to integrate makes the BladeSystem
Matrix ridiculously simple to buy, deploy and expand so you don’t have to deal
with the complexity of all the moving parts. The job of integration, setup and
installation is all on us. BladeSystem Matrix is delivered as one platform, in
one box that scales to up to 1000 nodes in a single, managed domain.  That
means you’re up and operating fast, not spending weeks putting the puzzle
together. 



Now, for the comments that Matrix is a "response to Cisco."  I can assure you, this level of integration didn't happen between March 13 and April 20.  For those that are paying attention, since the launch of BladeSystem c-Class in June of 2006, every step of innovation, integration and execution has been leading to Matrix.  Cisco's in good company with a lot of other vendors that continue to look for a way to respond to that long line of innovation from Virtual Connect and Flex-10 to Thermal Logic technology and Insight Dynamics-VSE.  Matrix is just raising the bar set by HP over the last three years.


If you already knew all of that, thanks for paying attention.

Designing infrastructure the way IT wants to work

We've been on the Adaptive Infrastructure journey at HP for several years now.  This week we are announcing an important milestone: BladeSystem Matrix.  We've been really thinking a lot about how customers use IT and ways we can optimize IT infrastructure to make it work better for them.  We recognize that infrastructure exists for applications, which exist for the business.  So we've taken a business and application perspective on how an infrastructure ought to operate.


Deploying an application typically requires an IT architect or team of architects to carefully design the entire infrastructure - servers, storage, network, virtual machines - and then hand off the design to a team of people to deploy, which typically takes several weeks.  This length of time is mostly an artifact of the way IT infrastructure is designed.  So we decided to change this with BladeSystem Matrix.  Now an architectural design is saved out as a template - servers, storage, virtual machines, network, server software image.  Then when it is time to provision an application, it's as easy as saying "make it so" - and in a matter of minutes, the Matrix's converged virtualized infrastructure is automatically configured and the application is ready to run.  In other words, the way it ought to be.


BladeSystem Matrix is the culmination of several years work at HP - creating an Adaptive Infrastructure that is simpler to buy, deploy and keep running optimally.  Applications are easier to provision, maintain, and migrate.  We've spent years proving out this architecture, not just in our labs but in real-world environments, with BladeSystem, Virtual Connect, and Insight Software - so we could learn how IT really operates - and more importantly - how it ought to operate.


Some people tell me Matrix's virtualization sounds sort of like a mainframe.  Others say that the portal interface reminds them of cloud IT.  I guess in a way they are all correct.  But unlike those environments, Matrix will run off-the-shelf x86 applications.  So I guess I've decided that Matrix is it's own thing.

Virtual Connect now helps converge infrastructure (and lower costs) even more!

On Monday, April 20th, we announced a new Virtual Connect family member and expanded capabilities for all Virtual Connect products.  We’ve see a great deal of momentum building behind virtualization and infrastructure convergence - and these enhancements will help our customers better meet their goals.


When customers put applications onto fewer servers with virtualization, they increase the needed density of both data and storage networking.  So, customers not only need server virtualization, but they also need to virtualize and converge server I/O.   Last November, we introduced the HP Virtual Connect Flex-10 technology that divides a dual-port network interface controller into 8 FlexNIC ports.  This technology reduces the cost associated with data networking in a virtualization environment by greatly reducing the number of cables, switches and additional NICs needed. 


Now we just announced a new Virtual Connect 8 Gb Fibre Channel module to support the heavy SAN needs of virtual servers.   The HP Virtual Connect 8 Gb 24-port Fibre Channel Module has twice the bandwidth of our 4 Gb Fibre Channel module running at up to 8 Gb on all downlinks and uplinks. Second, it has a total of 8 uplink connections, which is double our current module. Third, it features support for increased server side NPIV support with 255 World Wide Names available per server.  So all together more Virtual Machines can be hosted per server and per set of Virtual Connect Ethernet and Fibre Channel modules.  The result is needing fewer servers AND fewer interconnect modules. Fewer servers and interconnect modules mean a lower purchase cost, simpler set-up and ongoing management, and fewer cables, all able to host more application workloads..  More for less works well for everyone.


We added a new Virtual Connect multi-enclosure stacking feature. Multi-enclosure stacking allows up to 4 BladeSystem enclosures to be connected together into one Virtual Connect Domain.  This provides two big benefits. One, it creates a single simple server connection management domain for up to four enclosures, or up to 64 servers. Second, it also means fewer uplink cables to top of rack or core network ports, further reducing cable and expensive core port costs.


We’ve also enhanced Virtual Connect Enterprise Manager.   The new 1.30 release supports our new Virtual Connect 8Gb Fibre Channel Module, our latest G6 server blades announced last month, and extends the number of supported Virtual Connect domains to 200.  When combined with multi-enclosure stacking, this means that Virtual Connect Enterprise Manager can simplify the set-up and ongoing management of server I/O for up to 800 BladeSystem enclosures or put another way, up to 12,800 servers!  Enabling system administrators the ability to manage the connectivity of up to 12,800 servers will go a long way to making life simpler and less expensive for many of our customers.


So for customers looking to converge infrastructure or increase benefits from virtualization, we hope you let HP and our resellers help you save money, reduce your network complexity, and simplify your IT environment with Virtual Connect Ethernet and Virtual Connect Fibre Channel.


 “Connect More - Spend Less!”


Michael Kendall


ESS Virtual Connect

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