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.

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


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

Desperately Seeking Virtual I/O

Our friends at Dell are at it again.  In case you don’t pay as much attention to the happenings in the blade world as we do, here’s a recap.  Dell has been chasing the HP BladeSystem for some time now.  Though bamboozled on several fronts, the searchmetal_detector_convention for a competitive virtual I/O solution to Virtual Connect has been the most elusive.  Here’s the retrospective from March 2008 to February 2009. 

1. Virtual I/O ‘Take One’ for Dell was a partnership with eGenera in March 2008.

Headline: eGenera Inks OEM Deal with Dell

Dell is listening to customers and providing solutions that make the virtual data center easier to deploy and manage, regardless of platform,” said Rick Becker, vice president, Dell Software & Solutions. “Dell and Egenera will help customers focus on company growth by delivering excellence in virtualized infrastructure from server performance, storage interoperability to dynamic data center management.”


 2. Dell asked for a mulligan in July 2008 when they tossed eGenera overboard and tried to create something sort-of like Virtual Connect; meet FlexAddress.  Over a year and half late to market after version 1.0 of Virtual Connect.
Headline: Dell joins ranks of I/O virtualization providers with FlexAddress

"We have taken a very different approach than HP. Theirs is a proprietary switch that plugs into their backplane, and after adding all of the switching, it can cost about $20,000 for one chassis," said Rick Becker, vice president of software and solutions, Dell Product Group. "We have done this using open standards, so FlexAddress works with other switches like Cisco and Brocade and users don't have to switch their switches."

3. Dell and go back to the partner route with a Cisco bear hug.
Headline: Dell and Cisco team up on next-gen datacentres

Sorry, no quote from Rick Becker on this one, but here’s another that will give you an
idea.  "We're hearing much more interest from customers on FCoE, even though it is not an officially ratified standard, but at the moment, iSCSI is available and affordable," said Robin Kuepers, head of storage for EMEA at Dell.  No one asked if the Cisco's Nexus switches that Dell has simply agreed to resell are compatible with Cisco's large installed base of Catalyst switches or all the other industry compatible switches such as ProCurve and others.  Hint: They're not. (UPDATE: The comments below called me out that this was overkill and they are right; I should explain. There are differences in feature/functions between Nexus and Catalyst, especially related to capabilities with VM's and the future implementation of FCoE.  Catalyst switches will be missing out on some of these capabilities under the current direction.  The right direction is to have open standards for these types of capabilities, regardless of the plumbing in the datacenter and a Nexus-only approach doesn't get us there either.)

4. That brings us to Tuesday, February 3rd and a 180 degree sprint, to yet another partner.

Headline: Dell Pairs with Xsigo on Virtual I/O 

"What we are excited about with the Xsigo appliance is the openness," explains Rick Becker, vice president of software and solutions at Dell's Product Group. "This works across form factors and vendors, and in a heterogeneous data center, this can mange it all no matter what logo is on the box."  No shortage of handshaking going on over there. After all, HP's Solution Builder Program has over 300 members.

However, there’s one important thing that you should know about the Xsigo Dell announcement that Dell didn’t mention.  It does its magic with InfiniBand. That means you need to have an Infiniband network in place to use this product.  I’m all for open standards in this space too, like Anthony Dina at Dell blogged about last week, other than companies that have decided to base their server interconnect on InfiniBand, there is a more straightforward path for customers looking for a datacenter-wide virtual I/O strategy and an end-to-end virtual infrastructure

We do agree with Dell that not all businesses are the same, so a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution isn’t a good approach.  To complete our offerings, HP partners with Xsigo among other virtual I/O vendors.  It’s supported on HP blades and rack/tower servers too.  However, our cornerstone is advancing innovation like Virtual Connect Flex-10 on plain old fashioned Ethernet and Fibre Channel that most businesses will find is a ‘flex-size-fits-most’ solution that fits them just right.

Data Center Ants and Grasshoppers

Will 2009 be a tough year for IT departments, and us tech vendors too?  Duh.  Will it be as bad as the article I read today, 2009 - Thomas the Tank's journey to IT Hell?  We shall see.  Too often, tough times inspire dark predictions, preying on our most basic fears of the unknown.

I don't think the IT Boogeyman is hiding under my bed.  I didn't think so in 2001 either.  The winds of change to virtualization and industry standards have been blowing for too many years now - the question is were you an Ant or a Grasshopper

For those that never read Aesop's Fables, the lesson is the Grasshopper is screwed. 


If you're well on your way with server virtualization and have been through at least one round of server consolidation, you took a good first step. Good job Ant!  But if there is one truth, oh grasshopper, that I took away from the IT Hell article, it's that the status quo isn't going to cut it in 2009.  I know the IT crowd is a conservative bunch and we live and die by the mantra "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." The only problem is, sometimes if you don't break it yourself, someone or something will come a long and break it for you.

I'm not trying to scare you.  But we can't continue to resist change. 

There's more out there to do to take cost out (TCO) if you're going to be ready for the long winter of 2009.  If want to be a good Ant, you better add network, storage and power consolidation to the top of your shopping list.


10Gb Ethernet: Divide and Conquer with Virtual Connect Flex-10

Moore's law has usually been used to predict general trends in semiconductors.  While not exactly a perfect analogy, we have seen trends in interconnect bandwidth increase.  Ethernet has seen bandwidth increase ten-fold every few years, with the latest transition to 10Gb.  Usually these transitions take a while because the costs to transition are high, and the transition to 10Gb has followed that trajectory - until now.

Yesterday we announced an exciting new technology: Virtual Connect Flex-10.  We've figured out a way to deliver 10Gb Ethernet technology at a price lower than what many people are spending on 1Gb technology today.  As a result we can help customers get onto 10Gb technology sooner than they otherwise could have done before.

We've noticed that many customers are buying four or more NICs for their servers, sometimes due to bandwidth constraints, other times due to network segmentation or security constraints, and usually for redundancy.  As a result, customers spend an awful lot on a bunch of 1Gb networks.  We figured out that we could help customers by providing a 10Gb network connection that can be divided into up to four connections, replacing the need for up to four NICs.  By doing this we conquer the high price for 10Gb Ethernet connectivity by delivering up to 8 network connections at costs that are less than what many customers pay for four 1Gb connections. At the same time they can allocate more bandwidth for one or more links or maintain the multiple connections they want for security reasons, or do a combination of both.  And to top it all off, Virtual Connect takes less space and power too.  We think this is very cool.

Bottom line: more bandwidth, more flexibility, less costs and less power.  More of what you want and less of what you don't want.  We think this is a good combination.  This is why we believe the quickest, most affordable way to move to 10Gb is Virtual Connect Flex-10, and the time to do it is now.

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About the Author(s)
  • 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.
  • I work within EMEA HP Servers Central Team as a launch manager for new products and general communications manager for EMEA HP Server specific information. I also tweet @ServerSavvyElla
  • HP Servers, Converged Infrastructure, Converged Systems and ExpertOne
  • WW responsibility for development of ROI and TCO tools for the entire ISS portfolio. Technical expertise with a financial spin to help IT show the business value of their projects.
  • I am a member of the HP BladeSystem Portfolio Marketing team, so my posts will focus on all things blades and blade infrastructure. Enjoy!
  • Luke Oda is a member of the HP's BCS Marketing team. With a primary focus on marketing programs that support HP's BCS portfolio. His interests include all things mission-critical and the continuing innovation that HP demonstrates across the globe.
  • Global Marketing Manager with 15 years experience in the high-tech industry.
  • 20 years of marketing experience in semiconductors, networking and servers. Focused on HP BladeSystem networking supporting Virtual Connect, interconnects and network adapters.
  • Working with HP BladeSystem.
  • Greetings! I am on the HP Enterprise Group marketing team. Topics I am interested in include Converged Infrastructure, Converged Systems and Management, and HP BladeSystem.
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