Eye on Blades Blog: Trends in Infrastructure
Get HP BladeSystem news, upcoming event information, technology trends, and product information to stay up to date with what is happening in the world of blades.

Daniel Bowers On Day 2 of HP Blades Tech Day

Day #2 of the Infrastructure Software and Blades Tech Days got off to an early start, with an 8AM Q&A session (hosted in a room with working wireless, whew).   No zinger questions from the bloggers in the session (I'm very  disappointed, Kevin!!)    Yesterday's Tolly Report did come up, though.


Next was a discussion on client virtualization.  As a server guy,  I sometimes feel pained to think that my precious server CPU cycles are being used to power client OS's, but HP's Joseph George convinced me that the economics of VDI override my server-centric concerns.


We stepped out of the meeting room for a quick tour of one of the blade labs, and I got a chance to catch up with John Obeto.  Did you know that, in addition to all his clients here in the US, John also does IT work in Nigeria?   I don't think I've ever met as good an advocate for WIndows as John.  Despite his outrage at me for admitting that my only experience with Windows 7 was on a VM running on top of Ubuntu, John was kind enough to spend  a few minutes on video talking about training IT staff, and the rack server-versus-blade server debate, so I'll post that soon.


The tour of the factory was probably the high point of the event.  We had to hike a bit to get from the building where blades are engineered to the building where they're built and integrated, but most of the guys had their cameras out as we came onto the factory floor.  Actually it was two different buildings: One where servers are assembled, and a second where rack configurations with custom configs get integrated and tested.


In the first building, Simon Seagrave tried his hand at assembly, slapping a server hood label sticker onto Greg Knieriemen's jacket. 



As we were led through the aisles of servers and racks in various stages of assembly & integration, one of the things that impressed me (and others) was the awesome cable routing the factory guys do inside the integrated racks.


Next, Jean Brandau of HP led us outsite to the HP POD final test area, a pair of covered bays that are used for run-in tests of the 20' and 40' Performance Optimized Datacenters (aka data center in a shipping container).  The bays held up to 7 PODs, and today, there were three; a 20' POD (holding up to 10 racks) and two 40' PODs (each with up to 22 racks).   Kevin asked Jean what the primary use case was for PODs, and she said that rapid capacity expansion was the main reason customers installed PODs.  She gave the example of a company needing to quickly ramp up capabilities to take advantage of the rise from a recovering economy.


Tex-Mex food for lunch.  Frank Owen somehow convinced me to try the "special red sauce" on my chips...I guess I'll know in a couple of hours whether that was a good idea. Martin MacLoeod gave me some insightful anecdotes that pointed to the need for simple inventory survey tools.  (He gave me some other ideas, too, which I plan on stealing -- I mean leveraging -- soon.)


A big thanks to all the guys below for spending the last couple of days with us...looking forward to the next one!


The ISB Blades Tech Day attendees:


Stephen Foskett, Pack Rat http://blog.fosketts.net/
Simon Seagrave, Tech Head http://www.techhead.co.uk/
Martin MacLoeod, Blade Watch http://www.bladewatch.com/
Rich Brambley, VM/ETC http://vmetc.com/
Frank Owen, Tech Virtuoso  http://techvirtuoso.com/
Greg Knieriemen, Storage Monkey http://www.storagemonkeys.com
John Obeto, Absolutely Windows http://absolutelywindows.com/
Chris M. Evans, Storage Architect http://www.thestoragearchitect.com/
Devang Panchigar, StorageNerve http://storagenerve.com/
Kevin Houston, Blades Made Simple  http://bladesmadesimple.com/

The Insight Control Software guys get to strut their stuff at the HP Blades Tech Day (#hpbladesday)

By Chuck Klein


Now it was time for the bloggers to head to the Insight Software lab to see what HP does for managing data centers for power & cooling. John Schmitz, Ute Albert, and Tom Turicchi went over the System Insight Manager software (SIM) all the way up the management stack to Insight Dynamics. This is the software stack that allows system administrators to install, configure, monitor, and plan for BladeSystem chassis in the Datacenter.




Tom then gave a demonstration of how the Data Center Power Control part of Insight Control allows for data center managers to plan, monitor, cap and control the amount of energy and cooling is used by their infrastructure. Tom set up policies and rules to manage events that may happen in a Data Center from utility brown-outs to loss of cooling units. He also went over how you can monitor energy usage for the Data Center all the way down to each blade. This would allow you to better plan for capacity and where to install new blades.


The attendees wanted to know what couldn't be managed as they thought the list would be much shorter than reviewing what the software could do. So Tom went over that it managed only HP servers presently, that scripts could be used to manage or shutdown multi-tiered applications, network devices, and storage. These devices did not have the iLO2 ASIC chip in them and that was a foundational element that needed to be there.


Tom also went over a demo of what could be done to setup the event manager to respond to utility policies and help save companies money. He used an example from PG&E in California. That's all for now.


Chuck Klein's Take on the Blades Lab Visit at HP Blades Tech Day (#hpbladesday)

By Chuck Klein


Afternoon was the time for the Summit attendees to visit the HP blades lab. Jim Singer was our tour guide and went though much of the technology around the power, cooling, blades, interconnect, and storage associated with blades. Two of the attendees were pretty familiar with HP BladeSystem. Martin MacLoeod, Blade Watch
http://www.bladewatch.com/ and Kevin Houston, Blades Made Simple http://bladesmadesimple.com/, both had worked with HP blades  and knew the details. For others this was a whole new world. Jim Singer and Gary Thome reviewed the design considerations of the power supplies, the 21 patents on our cooling fans, and how the chassis actively managed the blades infrastructure. He reviewed how, what and why it  was designed in from the start, why is was built in such a way, and what advantages that provided data center managers when utilizing blades for their infrastructure.





Leslie Gillette's favorite blade is the BL2x220c that combines 2 servers into a single half-height slot. Kevin indicated that none of the other blade vendors have such a blade density. It is used in a lot of compute intensive applications such as super computing applications and for digital rendering such as Weta for the movie, Avatar. Stephen Foskett, Pack Rat http://blog.fosketts.net/ , wanted to know what considerations are taken into account when designing a new blade for the chassis. Gary and Jim went over the consideration of the design needs for power, for memory, what applications it would address, space considerations for features such as disk drives and mezzanine cards. All these go into the product requirements and a timeframe. Then engineering, manufacturing, procurement, etc. respond with what is possible. Then the negotiations begin.


I did ask Kevin Houston if he was seeing a lot of demand for Solid State Drives. He felt they were still too expensive for general applications and that they were only being used for very specific needs.  That's all for now.


Visiting the Blades Lab at HP Blades Tech Day (#hpbladesday)

By Dan Bowers


Up in the BladeSystem SWAT lab for a mid-afternoon session.   (For some reason, there's a big jar of Bit-o-Honey candy in here;
everyone is digging in.)  Two cool things in this lab: plenty of cover-off hardware (including
a special "chopped in half" c7000 enclosure so you can see the innards); and Dell, IBM, and other
blades up and running, which is great for comparisons.



James Singer and Gary Thome from HP discussing BladeSystem hardware in detail.  
Simon Seagrave (http://www.techhead.co.uk/) got top marks for knowing that the true name of the purple-ish color
used on BladeSystem to indicate hot-pluggable components is "port wine".


Power supply efficiency, says James, is usually quoted as a single number, and refers to the efficiency
when the supply is running at around 80% of capacity.  However, it's important to look at the
efficiency at the whole range of the power supply.


THe newest power supplies are 2400W and "a lot more efficient than their predecessors in the lower
utilization zone."  James used the whiteboard to explain how the 2400W power supplies intro'd
last year for HP BladeSystem have their efficiency improved greatly in the low- to mid- utilization;
my pitiful attempt to recreate his drawing in MS Paint below:



Quiz: Why did HP choose 6 power supplies for the c7000 enclosure?   THe storage bloggers
struggled with this question :smileyhappy:  but eventually folks came down to the right answer.   Generally,
enclosures are fed with two sepearte power feeds (for redundancy); and data center power feeds
tend to be 3-phase power.   3 phases, two feeds, equals the need for six supplies.  If you have
something not divisible by 6, you get unbalanced demand on the power phases at the data
center level, which can mean bigger power bills, irate power companies, or both.



Simon Seagrave (http://www.techhead.co.uk/) gave his own quiz to the HP engineers.
"Were the BladeSystem power supplies invented by someone in the model airplane industry?  Or is this
an urban myth?"  Well, says Gary, the truth is close: engineers (including HP's Wade Vincent)
who were developing cooling systems for HP BladeSystem uses concepts they learned as model airplane
enthusiasts to develop the BladeSystem fans.

Dan Bowers' Early Afternoon Update at HP Blades Tech Day (#hpbladesday)

By Dan Bowers


Ate lunch with Martin MacLoeod (http://www.bladewatch.com/) and Kevin Houston (http://bladesmadesimple.com/).  (John Obeto was just down the table from us too.)  Martin talked about his experiences with BladeSystem p-class, and the advances that have happened since then.  (Remember the one-blade p-class Diagnostic Station...effectively a 1-blade enclosure.)


Martin also pointed out how popular the Firmware spreadsheets (e.g. http://www.bladewatch.com/2009/11/27/updated-hp-firmware-spreadsheet/) were on Blade Watch, and suggested that HP should publish a cross-platform spreadsheet listing this "firmware compatibility" information.   (THere's HTML versions of the BladeSystem firmware 'table' on hp.com, but no cross-platform or Excel version...at least not yet, since this is a good idea.)


Next, the bloggers split into two groups.  Half went to the Insight Control demo lab to talk management, the remainder headed to the top floor and the BladeSystem "SWAT" lab to go in-depth into blade hardware.



I tagged along with the first group, and we talked to HP's John Schmitz and Tom TerEick.  John covered the management portfolio of software (and mentioned that Insight Control 6.0 release is coming out in the middle of March.)


John handed off to Tom for various demos.   One theme of this conversation: How can people (through management tools) be good stewards for a data center's power budget?


Some lively discussion prompted by Simon Seagrave (http://www.techhead.co.uk/) and Chris Evans (http://www.thestoragearchitect.com/) about how  much insight & control (no pun intended) vCenter has over HP server and storage hardware.  This led to heavy discussion about managing servers & storage from single console. "The technology is actually not that hard to do," said Tom, "but one of the biggest problems is getting the 'password problem' solved -- getting everything in an enterprise datacenter to allow you to cross boundries with a single set of credentials.


Now going heavy into power capping and monitoring capabilities...

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