Eye on Blades Blog: Trends in Infrastructure
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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...

Dan Bowers' Mid-morning update from HP Blades Tech Day (#hpbladesday)

By Dan Bowers


Mike Witkowski and Mike Kendall (both of HP0 talked a bunch about FCoE.  Half the bloggers weren't so keen on this topic, but the others were writing notes intently.   Mike W. went over the current status of the IEEE standards (including recent trending toward a combination of elements of VEPA and VN-Tag.)



When everyone grabbed their paper copy of HP's "Virtual Connect for Dummies" book.  Stephen Foskett ( http://blog.fosketts.net/ ) "Are you saying our readers are dummies??"


In December, HP Virtual Connect became HP's most popular interconnect in HP BladeSystem, in terms of the number bought by customers.



What's HP doing about FCoE?   "Basically," says Mike K., "duh, yeah."  He wouldn't talk about specific futures, but he did talk in general:  Expanding Flex-10 capabilities so that some of the FlexNICs can be fibre HBA functions.


There was some discussion about the amount of bandwidth built-in to blade servers.   Basically, for the mainstream HP blade, two 10Gb ports.  Kevin Houston (http://bladesmadesimple.com/) asked the collected virtualization experts among the bloggers: "Would 2 x 10Gb of bandwidth be sufficient for all cases of a virtualization host? Most agreed that "perfectly fine with 10 1Gb NICs today" for bandwidth.  Maybe not in the future, but now, it's OK.


So, Kevin continued, "Why do you have the extra 6 bays in an c7000 enclosure?"  Today, folks agreed, the reason is that nobody's doing converged traffic yet, you've got seperate network & storage fabrics that need homes." Kevin continued the thought.  "With CNAs, couldn't you eliminate mezzanine slots entirely on a blade, and use that space for oter stuff, like more processors?  Turn the x86 market place into something that it's ever been before."


After lunch: heading to the BladeSystem lab.


...Daniel (@DanielatHP)

Dan Bowers Reports Live from HP Blades Tech Day (#hpbladesday)



By Dan Bowers


At the HP Infrastructure Software and Blades Tech Day (twitter: #hpbladesday).


Gary Thome kicked things off by rattling off five things that were on his mind. Cloud computing and fabric types seemed to be on the blogger's minds, so those were main discussion points at the start.  


One discussion centered around fabrics of the future. What exactly is needed for the fabric that connects servers and storage? "Does the type of fabric even matter?" was the key question. THe consensus was there were two necessary (and perhaps sufficient) characteristics for the connection: It must be "virtualized", meaning flexible enough to be reconfigured on-the-fly, and it must be "the lowest cost at the maximum bandwidth." As long as the fabric meets those characteristics, the type may not matter. (They promised later today to talk mroe about FCoE.)


Mark Gonzalez of Nth Generation Computing talked a bit about what technologies his firm uses with its customers. Mark also dropped the first hockey reference of the day: "HP is like Wayne Gretsky. HP is like Wayne Gretsky. never the fastest skater on the ice, but was successful because he skated to where the pick was going, not where it was."



Simon Seagrave http://www.techhead.co.uk/ asked Mark how much interest there was from his customers for Matrix. "The major challenge with Matrix," said Mark, "is that most people don't know anything about it."


Stephen Foskett http://blog.fosketts.net/ (Microsoft MVP, excellent!) mentioned the "sea of BladeSystem" he saw at Microsoft recently, and said he'd be willing (with a little prodding!) to talk more about that later today.


Some struggles early on with the wireless cradles set up for the bloggers...sounds like it's getting fixed pretty quick.


...Daniel Bowers


www.hp.com/go/bladeblog




twitter: @DanielAtHp



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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.
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