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.

Expanding true graphics-rich experiences to more virtual users: HP Gen8 Graphics Server Blade

Today, HP announces support for the new NVIDIA GRID boards as well as additional Quadro graphics cards (including the K5000 which is excellent for large model visualizations) in the HP ProLiant WS460c Gen8 Graphics Server Blade.  Combined with our GPU multi-pass through carrier card which supports up to 3 users per blade, we now have the most comprehensive portfolio for GPU support in the industry. 

Talk to the experts about HP's virtual 3D and multi-media blade solutions at HP Discover

This technical session will describe best practices, how to host graphics-accelerated VDI and offer ways to realize up to a 50 percent reduction in per- user costs.

Affordable virtualized graphics for media-rich PC to high performance 3D workers—yes affordable!

The HP ProLiant WS460c Gen8 Server and Graphics Expansion Blade raise the bar again with industry-first support for bladed, high performance graphics with up to eight GPUs per blade – reducing the cost per user by up to 60%! This Gen8 blade solution is ideal for either media-rich users or virtualized, multi-tenancy users who utilize high-performance
graphics applications.

Redundant ROMs far, far away

Situation: A glitch is causing unexpected system reboots. After much testing, you identify the problem.  A firmware patch should prevent it from recurring.   Luckily, you've already got the tools that will let you remotely "flash", or update, your firmware.

Complication: If your system glitches while you're remotely updating firmware, you won't be able to connect to it remotely anymore.  Oh...and your system is on another planet.

That's the firmware problem facing a NASA team right now.  The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has seen unexpected reboots, and engineers believe they've got a patch that could fix it.  However, they're worried that a mistake or unexpected reboot during the patch process might leave the satellite so confused it will stop transmitting its data.

ProLiant engineers have actually grappled with this very same problem, though a little closer to home.

Before I explain that, an aside: there's a cool connection between HP engineering and Mars spacecraft. Lossless compression technology developed by HP labs and used in HP's RGS software for workstations was used by NASA for transferring images from the Spirit Rover on Mars.

Here's two ways that ProLiant blades -- including the RGS-using ProLiant WS460c G6 workstation blade -- protect you from this "botched update" scenario:

1. Redundant ROMs - There are two ROM images stored on each blade.  One is a "primary" image, used to boot. The other is a "backup" image.  Here's a screenshot from RBSU showing the version numbers (dates, actually) of the primary and backup images on one blade.


When you flash a ROM, it actually overwrites the backup image, and then makes this image the new primary.  The original primary becomes the new backup. This hedges against both a new image being bad, and against the flash process failing to complete or corrupting the image.  (One reason a flash might fail: total loss of power during a flash.)

By the way, if both ROM images are valid, you can select which one you want to use at boot  time from RBSU.  Here's a short video showing that:

There's also a manual way described in the Maintenance and Server Guide to force a boot to the redundant image by setting some physical DIP switches inside the blade itself.

2. Bootblock - There's actually a third, non-flashable section of a ProLiant ROM.  This "boot block" section
includes a a disaster-recovery feature that lets the server flash a new ROM image, even if both of the existing ROM images are corrupted.

BIOS & firmware updates are often used to fix glitches, but HP (and presumably NASA) also add new features or enhancements too. We post release notes that describe all the fixes and enhancements added to each version.    Here's a recent one added to the BL460c G6.

For example, one enhancement in this latest version is a "boot override menu" (see screenshot below), displayed by hitting F11 during boot. It lets you specify a "one time" override of the RBSU boot order, so you can boot to some other device.  After booting that one time, the system will fall back to its original boot order settings.


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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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