HP shows the way with new blade system roadmap

New class of blade servers unveiled

Hewlett-Packard has revamped its BladeSystem, with a new architecture that improves the management and virtualisation capabilities of its blades and incorporates some of the technology capabilities used in its NonStop fault-tolerant servers.

HP also sees blades as becoming a dominant datacentre technology for users.

“The new architecture will drive a new agenda to blade everything,” says Anne Livermore, HP’s executive vice president. HP itself is reducing 85 datacentres to six located in three cities, as part of an internal IT efficiency drive.

HP BladeSystem c-Class, announced today, will replace HP’s existing p-Class blade.

The company will continue to produce blades for the p-Class series through to 2007 and will support the series through to 2012.

The system will initially ship in July, with Intel’s latest dual-core processors. HP plans to add AMD’s Opteron processors by September and Itanium processors by the end of the year.

In the next few years, HP will produce a blade version of its NonStop system, says Scott Stallard, senior vice president and general manager of enterprise servers and storage. However, he says putting the fault-tolerant system on specially made Itanium blades with redundant capability “completely changes the economics for NonStop” and will broaden use of a system primarily used by the financial services and emergency services sectors today.

The c-Class server incorporates NonStop capabilities that allow users to add new connections and update systems without having to take other systems down.

In its BladeSystem revamp HP is putting more blades in a small chassis, in keeping with the trend towards smaller and denser systems. But it has also added extensive power and cooling management, and has included capabilities to control the amount of power the processor needs, plus a water-heat exchanger that can remove heat. Some of the management additions seem simple, such as LCD screens for monitoring the system, which is similar in concept to that featured on the company’s printers.

One HP blade user, Kevin Donnellan, director of enterprise infrastructure services at the Screen Actors Guild in Los Angeles, says he is looking to simplify his environment and the LCD screens will be a help.

“If they can really work, they are going to be a great boon to my administrators,” he says. “A visual display really does help a lot.”

Donnellan has been moving from rack-mounted to blade servers, and can do it for most applications. There are a few applications, however, such as the voice-response system used with the group’s telephone service, that can’t work on a blade.

The management capabilities include improved integration with other servers, as well as storage that allows virtualisation and management from one environment.

“The c-Class blades should [mean] a lot easier management,” Donnellan says.

While he hasn’t tested the system yet, he says from what he knows about the management controls and tools, he should be able to manage more blades without increasing staff.

Donnellan says he’s gone from 20 blades running the Windows operating system to about 70 blades over the past three years, and has been able to manage those systems without increasing his number of Windows systems administrators.

Large vendors are producing new blade systems with improved management and power-cooling capabilities. That’s not surprising considering that Livermore says the market is projected to grow from about US$3 billion (NZ$4.8 billion) today to about US$10 billion by the end of the decade.

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