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Behind the Scenes at the InfoWorld Blade Shoot-Out

When the sun set over Waikiki, HP BladeSystem stood as the victor of InfoWorld 2010 Hawaii Blade Shoot-Out.  Editor Paul Venezia blogged about HP's gear sliding off a truck, but other behind-the-scenes pitfalls meant the world's #1 blade architecture nearly missed the Shoot-Out entirely.
 
Misunderstandings about the test led us to initially decline the event, but by mid-January we'd signed on. Paul's rules were broad: Bring a config geared toward "virtualization readiness" that included at least 4 blades and either fibre or iSCSI shared storage.  Paul also gave us copy of the tests he would run, which let vendors select and tune their configurations.  Each vendor would get a 2- or 3-day timeslot on-site in Hawaii for Paul to run the tests himself, plus play around with the system's management features.  HP was scheduled for the first week of March.


In late January we got the OK to bring pre-released equipment. Luckily for Paul, Dell, IBM, and HP all brought similar 2-socket server blades with then unannounced Intel Xeon 5670 processors ("Westmere").  We scrambled to come up with the CPUs themselves; at the time, HP's limited stocks were all in use to support Intel's March announcement.


HP BladeSystem at InfoWorld Blade Shoot-OutHP's final config: One c7000 enclosure, four ProLiant BL460c G6 server blades with VMWare ESX and using 6-core Xeon processors and 8GB LVDIMMs. Two additional BL460c G6's with StorageWorks SB40c storage blades for shared storage; a Virtual Connect Flex-10 module, and a 4Gb fibre switch. (We also had a 1U KVM console and an external MSA2000 storage array just in case, but ended up not using them.)


To show off some power-reducing technology, we used solid state drives in the storage blades, and low-voltage memory in the server nodes.  HP recently added these Samsung-made "Green" DDR3 DIMMs that use 2Gb-based DRAMS built with 40nm technology. LV DIMMs can run at 1.35 volts (versus the normal 1.5 volts), so that they "ditch the unnecessary energy drain" (as Samsung's Sylvie Kadivar put it recently).


Our pre-built system left Houston three days before I did, but it still wasn't there when I landed in Honolulu Sunday afternoon. We had inadvertently put the enclosure into an extra-large Keal case (a hard-walled shipping container) which was too tall to fit in some aircraft. It apparently didn't fit the first cargo flight.  Or the second one.  Or the third one...


Sunday evening, already stressed about our missing equipment, the four of us from HP met in the home of our Hawaiian host, Brian Chee of the University of Hawaii's Advanced Network Computing Laboratory.  Our dinnertime conversation generated additional stress: We realized that I'd mis-read the lab's specs, and we'd built our c7000 enclosure with 3-phase power inputs that didn't match the lab's PDUs.  Crud.  


We nevertheless headed to the lab on Monday, where we spotted the rats-nest of cables intended to connect power meters to the equipment.  Since our servers still hadn't arrived, two of the HP guys fetched parts from a nearby Home Depot, then built new junction boxes that would both handle the "plug conversion" to the power whips, plus provide permanent (and much safer) test points for power measurements. 


Meanwhile, we let Paul get a true remote management experience on BladeSystem.   I VPN'd into HP's corporate network, and pointed a browser to the Onboard Administrator of an enclosure back in a Houston lab.   Even with Firefox (Paul's choice of browser), controlling an enclosure that's 3000 miles distant is still simple.


Moments Before Disaster...Mid-morning on day #2, Paul got a cell call from the lost delivery truck driver.  After chasing him down on foot, we hauled the shipping case on to the truck's hydraulic lift...which suddenly lurched under the heavy weight, spilling the wheels off of the side, and nearly sending the whole thing crashing onto the ground.  It still took a nasty jolt.


 


Some pushing and shoving got the gear to the Geophysics building's piston-driven, hydraulic elevator, then up to the 5th floor.  (I suppose I wouldn't want to be on that elevator when the "Low Oil" light turns on!)


 


We unpacked and powered up the chassis, but immediately noticed a health warning light on one blades.  We quickly spotted the problem; a DIMM had popped partway out.  Perhaps not coincidently, it was the blade that took the greatest shock when the shipping container had slipped from the lift.


With everything running (whew), Paul left the lab for his "control station", an Ubuntu-powered notebook in an adjoining room.  Just as he sat down to start deploying CentOS images to some of the blades...wham, internet access for the whole campus blinked out.  It didn't affect the testing itself, but it caused other network problems in the lab. 


An hour later, those problems were solved, and performance tests were underway.  It went quick.  Next, some network bandwidth tests.   Paul even found some the time to run some timed tests to evaluate Intel's new AES-NI instructions, using timed test with some OpenSSL tools.


Day #3 brought us a new problem.  HP's Onboard Administrator records actual power use, but Paul wanted independent confirmation of the numbers.  (Hence, the power meters and junction box test-points.) But the lab's meters couldn't handle redundant three-phase connections.  An hour of reconfiguration and recalculation later, we found a way to corroborate measurements.  (In the end, I don't think Paul published power numbers, though he may have factored them into his ratings.)


We rapidly re-packed the equipment at midday on day #3 so that IBM could move into the lab. Paul was already drafting  his article as we said "Aloha", and headed for the beach -- err, I mean, back to the office.


 Paul Venezia (left) and Brian Chee with the HP BladeSystem c7000.


 View toward the mountains from the rooftop "balcony" behind Brian's lab



 

How to order three-phase power module stand-alone for c7000!

Seems that we get a lot of questions on how to convert single phase power modules to 3-phase modules. Our technical staff tries to sum up the process.


 The problem:


"I have a partner who ordered a few enclosures with single-phase power per customer's suggestions.  Turns out customer now wants three-phase power.  The partner is looking to simply order the $175 three-phase power module stand-alone: 413380-B21.  They are unable to do so as it is an option to purchase only as an FIO orderable option with an enclosure on the HP site.  I know you can get the single-phase modules sent seperately and they've ordered those before.  Is there any way to do this for the three-phase module or a spare parts # to avoid a full return for a $175 part?"


 


Answer:


Converting a Single Phase c7000 Enclosure to 3-Phase Enclosure and a 3-Phase Enclosure to a Single Phase Enclosure.

 

To do a conversion the appropriate Spare Part number must be ordered through spares. In North America, Service Spares can be ordered through the HP Parts Store at http://h20141.www2.hp.com/hpparts/default.asp?EE=InvChr

 

Local spare parts stores and spares distributors for other regions can be found at http://h20141.www2.hp.com/hpparts/country_choice.asp

 

Use the table below to order the correct spare part to replace the original module.

 

Spare Part  Description                                                          Plug Type


413495-001  3-Phase North America/Japan Input Module       L15-30P


413496-001  3-Phase International Input Module                    IEC309, Red, 5-Pin, 16A


413494-001  Single-Phase Power Input Module                     C19 - C20 Cord

 

It is the responsibility of the user to ensure that the correct receptacles and/or PDU Infrastructure are available prior to the conversion.  For more information on powering c-Class enclosures please consult the c-Class Site Planning Guide available at http://h71028.www7.hp.com/enterprise/cache/499697-0-0-0-121.html


 


A brief overview of the steps required is below but consult the c7000 Maintenance and Service guide for detailed removal and replacement instructions, this is available at http://h71028.www7.hp.com/enterprise/cache/316682-0-0-0-121.html

 

1. Power Down the Enclosure


2. Disconnect all power cables to the enclosure


3. Remove the hot-plug Power Supplies from the front of the enclosure


    NOTE: The input module is difficult to remove if the power supplies are inserted in the enclosure.


4. Undo the 3 screws on the input power module at the rear of the enclosure


5. Remove the Input Power Module


6. Replace with the new Input Power Module


7. Tighten the 3 screws to lock the module in place


8. Replace the hot-plug power supplies


9. Add additional hot-plug power supplies if required


   Note: The 3-Phase Module requires 3 or 6 Power Supplies to operate, extra power supplies should be ordered if necessary.


10. Reconnect the power cables


11. Power the enclosure on

 

The user then needs to connect to the Onboard Administrator via Telnet or SSH and login to the command line interface as an administrator.


The following command should then be run to set the appropriate input module type.

 

Set enclosure pdu_type x


      x = 1 = Single phase


      x = 2 = Three phase North America/Japan


      x = 3 = Three phase, International


      x = 4 = DC Power

 

More details on the Onboard Administrator Command Line Interface are available at http://h71028.www7.hp.com/enterprise/cache/316682-0-0-0-121.html in the


1. HP BladeSystem Onboard Administrator User Guide


2. HP BladeSystem Onboard Administrator User Guide Command Line Interface User Guide


 


As the Input Power Module is a Field Replaceable Part there are no warranty or support issues with replacing this item.


 


Hope this helps all you power hungry BladeSystem people out there.


 

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