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

A look back at HP Americas Partner Conference

By Mark Gonzalez: President, Nth Generation Computing, Inc.

This year’s America’s Partner Conference was different from other ones that I’ve attended in the past primarily in both energy level and the focused sense of purpose that I felt from all of the hp Executives. Everyone was “on message” when it came to the importance of the Converged Infrastructure and how the various parts of HP (such as mobility and printing) played into the whole. In years past it seemed like each HP division was focused on their own part of the business, this year it was more like the 3 Musketeers, “All for One”.

Mark Hurd talked about hp’s growth plans and how a lot of the recent growth had come from acquisitions (such as Mercury, EDS etc.) and how they would continue to make investments going forward…. And then pretty much the next day we read in the papers that HP had bought Palm.

Another difference that I noticed was that some of the marketing ads that they typically showed at these events, such as around mobile printing, (the ability to be walking down the street with a hand held device and then printing it to a printer connected to the internet (or to business centers in hotels or Kinko’s) weren’t just internally focused “entertainment”. Since the event I’ve actually seen 2 of them on TV.

All in all I came away with the feeling that hp’s strategy going forward was going to be, “no more Mr. Nice Guy” when it came to the competition – and especially Cisco. If I were Cisco, I wouldn’t be sleeping very well at night.


This is not the 10Gb network you’re looking for

Many of the IT shops I’ve dealt with recently have already upgraded to a 10Gb core network, or are well into the planning stages for one.  But we as an industry need to reconsider if this is the right time for such an upgrade.  This is not a trivial task, both in terms of expense, and potential disruption.  Most shops would expect to get five to seven years out of such an upgrade.  Many would be surprised to learn that their investment could be out of date in as little as six months.


The issue revolves around Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE).  Many shops are planning some level of Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) adoption over the next couple of years, and FCoE relies on CEE.  CEE uses three new Data Center Bridging (DCB) protocols:


·        802.1Qbb –   Priority-based Flow Control (PFC)


·        802.1Qaz –    Enhanced Transmission Selection (ETS)
                      DCB Capability Exchange Protocol (DCBX)


·        802.1Qau –   Congestion Notification (QCN)  




The first two protocols in this list are adequate for one or two hops of FCoE traffic, but if you want an end to end FCoE solution, the third protocol (QCN) is critical to manage congestion at the points of oversubscription.  Here’s a few facts about QCN:


·        QCN requires every device in the data path to support QCN


·        QCN is implemented in hardware, not firmware


·        Very few (if any) currently shipping products support QCN


This means if you have a vision of running end to end FCoE in your datacenter, you need to wait.  Why make a significant investment that’s out of date when it’s implemented?  As an interim step we can add some 10Gb capability to existing switches, and deploy rack switches to provide incremental 10Gb capability until products are ready for these new protocols.


According to Gartner analyst Joe Skorupa we should “Plan to maintain separate data center SANs and LANs for at least the next three years.”  Solutions like HP’s upcoming FlexFabric1 can take advantage of FCoE to reduce complexity at the network edge, without requiring a major network upgrades or changes to the LAN and SAN before the standards are finalized.


1 http://h18000.www1.hp.com/products/solutions/converged/ff-4aa0-7725enw.pdf

Register for HP Tech Forum 2010, Las Vegas June 21st - 24th

In recent months, HP has accelerated innovation to address IT sprawl and ballooning data complexity straining today's enterprise businesses. At the HP Technology Forum, HP subject matter experts and strategists will make the case for Converged Infrastructure, the standards-based, integrated solutions and services driving the data center of the future.

Special sessions will include:

1455: Executive Showcase - An Overview of Converged Infrastructure in Action

1909: Convergence Without Compromise - HP Virtual Connect

1894: Applying Converged Infrastructure in Hybrid Computing Environments - Including the Cloud

1423: HP Converged Infrastructure Unleashes Next-generation Oracle Technologies

1633: Storage for the HP Converged Infrastructure

In 2001, DreamWorks Animation and HP formed a innovation partnership to explore the creative frontier where film arts and technology meet. Hear from the CEO and Director of DreamWorks Animation about the collaboration that has redefined the art of filmmaking. Completely redesigned, the 2010 Expo has a sharp new look and layout for showcasing technologies, solutions, and services from over 90 of the world's leading IT companies. Take your first look during the Welcome Reception on Monday night!

Developed by technical people for technical people, the HP Technology Forum has evolved as IT increasingly drives business differentiation and competitive advantage. To balance the hands-on labs, solution overview, and technical deep-dives, this year's conference offers a dedicated Business Track. Sessions will focus on technology implementation and integration, plus reducing complexity, resource requirements, and costs in order to shift IT budget toward innovation. Special topics: data de-duplication, sustainable IT, migration issues, cloud computing, security, business continuity, and more. Headlining each of the 2010 technology tracks,

Super Sessions will feature HP strategists and subject matter experts providing context for breakouts in this year's key technology areas. In addition to discussing emerging IT trends, presenters will talk about critical challenges to overcome for optimal returns on technology investments. Plus, you'll hear the inside story on HP innovations to address these challenges.

In addition to presentations by some of today's IT thought leaders, general sessions will also feature performances by two of today's comedy greats! Jake Johannsen: A favorite on the Late Show with David Letterman, Johannsen's talent as a comedian, writer, and actor has been celebrated by People Magazine and the American Comedy Awards. Jim Gaffigan: One of the best-known comedians today, Gaffigan co-authored Pale Force for NBC.com with Conan O'Brien and has acted in high-profile shows including That 70's Show, Sex and the City, and Law & Order.

This year all of the 40+ hands-on labs will be co-located in a single hall, making it easier for you to participate in more of these popular sessions. Individual sessions fill up quickly, so log in to the Session Scheduler early to take your pick and reserve your place. The 2010 roster of 2-hour labs includes:

1367: Understanding the EVA internal architectural structure

1369: Building an On Demand Private Cloud

1426: HP Storage Essentials SRM

1429: Managing Virtual Machines in the network Browse the other hands-on labs in the Public Catalog.

New this year, you may submit requests for one-to-one meetings with HP subject matter experts directly via the Session Scheduler. If you've already registered, log in to see a complete list of HP participants and request a meeting.

Join in, register!

Also, we've moved THE Party! to Wednesday night so more attendees will have a chance to enjoy the phenomenal performers lined up for this year's event: the Goo Goo Dolls and Roger Daltrey!

Let me know if you have any questions about HP Tech Forum. I'll be there, let me know if you will be too.

Thanks for reading - Kristie Popp @PoppAtHP

HP Client Virtualization: Hello from Citrix Synergy 2010!

I'm here in beautiful San Francisco with my fellow client virtualization fans at one of the most exciting conferences in the client virtualization industry, the 2010 Citrix Synergy event.  And it's been a great week so far with a number of big announcements from both Citrix and HP, and chock full of great sessions. 

I've got a few minutes before the next session, so here are some of this week's highlights:

  • Citrix announced their much anticipated XenClient product, which takes client virtualization to users on the move, allowing users to run multiple desktops on a single laptop, while providing the benefits that come with virtualizing your desktop.  Very cool demo at the keynote, and express versions of XenClient are available for download at the Citrix website.

  • As our partner, Citrix, announced the XenClient, HP announced the XenClient hypervisor technology readiness of the HP Compaq Elite 8000 Business Desktop and HP EliteBook 8440p Notebook PC, providing customers the power to deliver the most demanding business applications, combined with the protection of a secure, centrally managed virtual machine.

  • HP also announced the new HP 4320t Mobile Thin Client, designed to meet the security and reliability needs of remote and mobile workers. It enables secure access to server-based, virtual PC or blade PC computing solutions while providing the mobility of a reliable notebook PC.

  • And by popular demand... HP has released our VDI reference architecture for XenDesktop and XenServer! I'm particularly excited about this offering since I'm often asked about HP's take on implementing client virtualization.  Reference architectures are how we convey that, and I'm proud of what we've been able to develop jointly this with Citrix.  Check out the reference architecture in all its glory here.

  • Finally, HP also announced new RDP Enhancements for Adobe Flash, enabling the decoding and playing of embedded flash for VMware View and Microsoft Remote Desktop Services environments. RDP 6 does not natively support flash, so our enhancements both decodes and plays embedded flash, enabling users to enjoy enhanced productivity and communication benefits. It takes advantage of client processors, rather than server processors, to decode flash media – lowering the CPU load on the server

Be sure to check out some of our great HP folks on short Citrix TV clips (including yours truly), recorded at the event this week!

As a final note, HP just released a new client virtualization TCO calculator if you're interested in understanding how client virtualization from HP can help you meet your business objectives.  Try it out here.  Note that your HP rep has access to a related client virtualization ROI tool that gets you an even more customized report out, so be sure to bring this up with your HP contact.

OK, going to head over to Laura Frombach's deep dive session on the new HP Reference Architecture - talk to you soon!

Until next time,

Joseph George
HP Client Virtualization Team

IDC calls it: blades are server of choice in strategic initiatives

Last month, IDC issued a press release that confirms what end users have known for some time now: blades are becoming the dynamic platform for the data center of the future.  The survey found that the majority of IT organizations are using blades for virtualization and private cloud environments. 

 HP has one of the most comprehensive bladed portfolios in the market – BladeSystems designed for datacenter applications, mega memory for virtualization, two server in one enclosure blades for dense computing environments, workstation blades for client virtualization, Integrity blades for mission critical computing and just about any type of storage blades and data  storage for any size business.

The survey also found that more enterprise customers will do virtualization on blades than any other platform.

To help make all this work better together, HP offers management software tools to improve IT staff efficiency while reducing expenses and Virtual Connect to simplify networking.

And speaking of networking, what could be the largest networking offering ever amassed – products, services, solutions and support – is now all available from HP. 

More to come as HP Converged Infrastructure provides the blueprint for the data center of the future.


SLC Flash and USB Keys for Integrated Hypervisors

The USB key that HP offers for integrated hypervisors inside ProLiant servers uses single-level cell (SLC) NAND flash, instead of the more common multi-level cell (MLC) technology.  Why SLC?  Because not all all USB keys are created equal. An SLC-based key will last about 10 times as long than a cheaper MLC-based USB stick you'd typically find in computer stores.

You don't need an especially reliable key if you're just using it to move software or install device drivers.   However, there are some good reasons why people install USB keys as a permanent boot device for integrated hypervisors like VMWare ESXi (Simon Seagrave describes the reasons on his Techhead site).  

SLC (Single Level Cell) and MLC (Multi-Level Cell) are two types of NAND flash memory usually used in USB keys, with MLC being much more common.  

SLC technology works by storing a single level of voltage (charge) in each memory cell.  That charge represents single bit of information. If the cell is charged, it represents a "1"; if the cell isn't charged, it represents a "0".  Each cell holds 1 bit of data.

MLC technology stores one of four different charge states in each cell. So each cell can either be uncharged, charged a little, charged a lot, or charged full.  Four different possible states ("00", "01", "10", and "11" in binary) means each cell stores 2 bits of information. 

So MLC has a cheaper cost per bit.  That makes it more popular with consumers, meaning more memory makers produce it...and supply-and-demand end up making MLC a lot cheaper than SLC.

However, the two technologies react differently to the biggest problem with NAND flash: wear-out.  NAND flash cells, whether SLC or MLC, can only survive a certain number of writes (changes to the charge state) before they degrade.  However, SLC can tolerate around 100,000 write cycles, while MLC can only endure 5,000 to 10,000 cycles.  So if you wrote to a single cell once every hour, an average cell in an MLC-based key would fail in about 1 year, while you'd get about 11 years of life out of an SLC-based key.

Now, a copy of ESXi actually doesn't do very many writes to its 'host' key. When ESXi  boots, it sets up a RAM disk in memory and mostly uses that, even for log files.  There are also usually two bootable images on each key, providing some redundancy; plus, if a key fails, it's relatively easy to restore the host to a new key.   All that being said, it's pretty rare in the data center to find a way to spend about $70 more to get a device with 10x the reliability.

Labels: ESXi| MLC| reliability| SLC| USB
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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.
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