Reality Check: Server Insights
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I received a new HPC Multi-core server today – documenting the configuration


One of the complexities in benchmarking applications is defining the server configuration adequately.  The purpose of a benchmark is to provide guidance - to demonstrate how to obtain a given performance from a specific application workload.  This guidance is not useful if the performance cannot be reproduced.  To make benchmark results reproducible, it is necessary to define the server configuration, specifying everything that can affect performance.  From a hardware point of view, this is not difficult - specify the model numbers of every component in each server, then specify the model numbers of the components in storage and networking components.  Some of this information is available on-line, such as processor model number.  Other information, such as model or speed of memory DIMMs, is usually not accessible on-line, but this data is important.  For example, some current x86 servers have an option of 667MHz or 800MHz DIMMs, and this choice can affect application performance considerably.

Identifying the software components can be difficult, since you need to know which components affect the performance of the workload.

And the most obscure configuration area is firmware - in some cases, versions of firmware have a big impact on workload performance.  It is rarely necessary to document the firmware version of the server, but it is a good idea to document firmware versions of networking components.

Next, it is important to know how the quantities of specific components affect performance.  Performance varies with the number of disks internal to the servers, the number controllers connecting the server to external disks, the number and topology of network switches, etc. 

One important variable is the number of memory DIMMs.  The number of DIMMs affects performance in two ways - the total amount of memory on the server, and the memory performance.  It is useful to run the workload using the maximum number of DIMMs, then repeat the benchmark using ½ as many DIMMs.  Memory is expensive, and it is very useful to know how the workload performance varies with memory configuration.

Virtualization Never Looked So Good

Virtualization has become a mainstay, even a business imperative, within most data centers today.  Today, every server manufacturer is claiming leadership in virtualization platforms, so the real question you need to ask is, "Why HP?"  Well, let me give you a few of the key reasons why HP is the right choice for your trusted advisor when it comes to virtualization. 

Whether it's for server consolidation, workload balancing or security and disaster recovery purposes, the dramatic growth of virtual machine implementation is mind boggling.  This is not necessarily coupled to the comfort level of IT managers though, as there continues to be a disarray of management tools and interfaces required to manage both physical and virtual machines.  HP has taken this challenge head on with our new Insight Control Environment (ICE) which gives you a single pane of glass to monitor and manage both your virtual machines and physical machines simultaneously.

On November 17th, we introduced the new HP ProLiant DL385 G5p server based on the new Quad-Core AMD Opteron 2300 processor (code named "Shanghai").  The HP ProLiant DL385 G5p is designed and optimized specifically for virtualization and consolidation environments.  In fact, we looked at every facet of the product in our development effort with a few key principles in mind:

  1. Provide a strong investment protection value for existing AMD Opteron customers

  2. Improve the overall performance in the same, or lower, power envelope

  3. Optimize the virtualization performance

  4. Increase the number of virtual machines on a single platform

  5. Simplify and improve the security of deploying of virtual machines

The new DL385 G5p is now available, having met and exceeded these objectives, arriving ahead of schedule.  With the new 45nm "Shanghai" processor, with a 6MB L3 cache, we have achieved higher performance and maintained Socket F compatibility, yet at a substantially lower power envelope.  HP, unlike some of our competitors, has designed the DL385 G5p to provide our customers with the flexibility to choose between single processor or dual processor configurations, without sacrificing any of the improvements offered by Shanghai.  We have optimized the real estate inside of the 2U chassis to deliver twice the memory, twice the NICs and 6 times the storage capacity as the previous generation DL385.  With 16 DDR2 DIMM sockets, you can reach 128GB of memory using 8GB high performance DIMMs.  This allows for significantly more virtual machines to run on this single platform. 

In addition, with virtual machine deployment, networking capabilities are critical.  In the new DL385 G5p, we integrated 4 gigabit Ethernet ports to free up the PCI-Express slots to meet your flexible design requirements and increase the bandwidth for the virtual machines running on the server.  The flexibility of the PCI bus slot configuration is another key benefit of the HP ProLiant DL385 G5p.  With up to 6 PCI-e slots, additional networking, storage and application specific I/O adapters can be added to improve the virtualization experience.  There are many customers who require legacy PCI-X controller support and some that are looking for the latest and greatest x16 PCI-e controller support.  In the DL385 G5p, we have given those customers the flexibility to configure the PCI bus slots to meet their unique application and environment needs.

Storage performance is a key differentiator in the market today, even more so in virtualization environments.  That's why we increased the internal disk storage on the DL385 G5p to 16 2.5" SAS or SATA disk drives; or 6 3.5" SAS or SATA disk drives.  This provides up to 6TB of internal disk storage to be shared between the virtual machines with improved performance when compared to external shared disk solutions.  By bringing the disks closer to the processors, the performance bandwidth issues are minimized and the overall performance of the storage is improved.

This server is built with efficiency in mind!  The HP ProLiant DL385 G5p helps save on energy costs with the industry's highest efficiency power supplies that currently power the complete portfolio of HP ProLiant servers.  Finally, with the internal USB slot, you can utilize an iHypervisor on a USB key that allows you to deploy virtual machines securely and easily.

In closing I'd like to quote Paul Gottsegen, VP of Marketing for HP's Industry Standard Servers division, from a recent interview:

"Customers can drive down costs through new "Shanghai"-based HP ProLiant servers that set new levels of power efficiency and performance.  HP has experienced unparalleled success over the past four years working with AMD in bringing AMD Opteron processor-based platforms to customers of all sizes. Early results indicate "Shanghai" is a winner."

HP continues to lead the market in delivering more ProLiant servers featuring AMD Opteron processors than any other system manufacturer.  In fact, HP has shipped over four times more than IBM and 1.5 times more than Dell (IDC- Q208 Server Tracker, Oct.08).  Have confidence in choosing HP as your trusted advisor as we continue to set the bar for performance, energy efficiency and optimization in virtualization environments. 

For more information click here on the DL385 G5P server link, or listen to the replay from Paul Gottsegen at the AMD Shanghai launch event on November 13th.

I received a new HPC Multi-core server today – Live from SC08

This week, I am attending the annual SC08 conference.  For 2 decades, the tradition in HPC is to announce and demonstrate new products at the SC conference, and there is a lot to absorb. 

For me, the event started with a 2-day HP user conference, attracting some of HP’s largest HPC customers.  It was a very full 2 days, with lectures on many subjects from customers, Intel, AMD, software development companies, and of course HP.  Even though I work here, I learned a lot about projects in other parts of the company.

At the SC08 show, I saw my 1st HP POD – portable optimized datacenter – a 40-foot-long shipping container on the outside, and a self-contained computer facility on the inside.  This excellently-designed mobile facility can contain 3500 servers or 12,000 disk drives, in standard 19” racks.  Just provide a flat location, power, chilled water, and a network cable, and you have a new computer room.

To make the week more interesting, AMD announced the new Opteron Shanghai processor – higher clock speed, bigger cache, faster Northbridge, and improved performanceSmiley Tongueower ratio.

One of the good things about big companies is that they spawn startups.  This year, a startup company announced a new HPC architecture at SC08.  Nearly all the employees are my friends and previous HP co-workers.   Check out



AMD launches quad-core Shanghai processors

This is an exciting time for our partner, AMD, as they launch their newest family of processors, and HP is pleased that our ProLiant portfolio will offer new capabilities computing to customers of all sizes.  The new "Shanghai" products (Quad-Core AMD Opteron 2300 processors) will help HP customers gain greater computing power and business results when they build their infrastructure on HP ProLiant ML, DL and BL servers.  Whether they are using virtualization technology to optimize their IT assets or they are consolidating their server inventory, HP ProLiant servers featuring the Quad-Core AMD Opteron 2300 processors will help customers do more business in a smaller footprint. 

Around the globe, customers using AMD Opteron-based HP ProLiant servers value investment protection, consistent performance improvement, power efficiency and optimized design elements that enhance their virtualization strategies.  The Quad-Core AMD Opteron 2300 processors deliver on these expectations with the larger 6GB L3 cache, Socket F compatibility, decreased power envelope, improved performance/watt and enhanced virtualization indexing.  Watch for news on HP ProLiant offerings featuring the Quad-Core AMD Opteron 2300 processors. 

- Rich Palmer

Director, HP Technology Strategy

Industry Standard Servers


I received a new HPC Multi-core server today – How to measure the power usage

Given that it is important to measure power usage and correlate it to application performance, how do you measure the power?

We use 2 different methods - one for rack-mounted servers and another for blade servers.  The rack-mounted servers do not provide power meters, so we bought a power meter.  We plug the server into the power meter, so we are measuring the total power used.  Then, with a simple PC interface, we allow the application user on the server to obtain continuous power data which is easy to correlate with the applications. 

This is easy for the users, but it requires planning and logistics and some work by our system managers, to connect the meter to the right server at the right time.

We often want to measure the power of a cluster running one HPC application in parallel, and it is usually sufficient to measure the power of any one server in the cluster running the application.

It is easier to measure power on an HP blade enclosure, since the enclosure contains power measurement capability and provides this data in a usable way.  The available data includes the total enclosure power and also the power used by each blade server and each fan in the enclosure.  We integrated this information with the Platform Computing LSF job scheduler.  Now, users of our blade servers submit their jobs via LSF and automatically receive their power usage data as part of the job.

Next week, I expect to post a message from the SC08 conference.

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