Author Archives: Kevin Houston

What is the HP BladeSystem Matrix?

hpmatrix-webHP announced a while ago a new product they call the HP BladeSystem Matrix.  Okay, well, it’s not really a “product” as much as it is a solution.  HP calls the BladeSystem Matrix “a cloud infrastructure in a box” – which is a good way to look at it.  The infrastructure that is “the Matrix” is simply HP’s BladeSystem chassis, loaded with blade servers and attached to an HP storage SAN.  Add to the mix some automation, via templates, and you have the BladeSystem Matrix.  The secret behind this unique solution is the “Matrix Orchestration Environment“, which combines automated provisioning, capacity planning, and disaster recovery, with a self-service portal into one “command center.”  However, this is not a single software, but a combination of HP Insight Dynamics – VSE and Insight Orchestration .

What’s In a BladeSystem Matrix?

There are two options for the HP BladeSystem Matrix bundle – a Starter Kit and an Expansion Kit.  The Starter Kit is designed to include all of the infrastructure necessary to manage up to 16 blade servers, with the option of adding a HP StorageWorks EVA4400 SAN.   The HP BladeSystem Matrix Starter Kit (hardware components) contains:

  • HP BladeSystem c7000 enclosure, single-phase, single-phase with 6 power supplies, 10 fans
  • HP BladeSystem c7000 Onboard Administrator with KVM option, redundant pair
    HP Virtual Connect Flex-10 10Gb Ethernet modules, redundant pair
    NOTE: No transceivers/SFPs included so that you can choose these options – need to add to order.
  • HP Virtual Connect 8Gb 24-Port FC Module for BladeSystem c-Class, redundant pair
    NOTE: Two [2] Fibre Channel SFP+ transceivers included with each module; therefore, 4 total transceivers per redundant pair.
  • BladeSystem Matrix documentation CD
  • BladeSystem Matrix label attached to 10000 series rack door handle

The part number for HP BladeSystem Matrix Starter Kit (hardware components) is 535888-B21. It is important to note, the starter kit does not contain any blade servers or storage.  Those must be ordered separately.

The HP BladeSystem Matrix Starter Kit (software components) provides HP Insight software licenses for 1 enclosure / 16-server with standard 1 year 24×7 Technical Support and Update Service unless 3-, 4-, or 5-year Support Plus 24 Care Pack uplifts are purchased to increase support and update period. These licenses include:

  • Insight Dynamics – VSE suite for ProLiant with Insight Control suite
  • Insight Orchestration software
  • Insight Recovery software
  • Virtual Connect Enterprise Manager software
  • HP Insight Remote Support Advanced (formerly Remote Support Pack)

The part number for HP BladeSystem Matrix Starter Kit (software components) is TB462A.

Once you have the Hardware and Software Starter kits, then you’ll need to purchase the HP Professional Services – for installation; the Central Management Server (CMS) – a BL460 with 2 CPUs, 12GB RAM; additional blade servers and the storage that you need.

The HP BladeSystem Matrix Expansion Kit (HP part #507021-B21 ) is very similar to the Starter Kit:

  • HP BladeSystem c7000 enclosure, single-phase, single-phase with 6 power supplies, 10 fans
  • HP BladeSystem c7000 Onboard Administrator with KVM option, redundant pair
    HP Virtual Connect Flex-10 10Gb Ethernet modules, redundant pair
    NOTE: No transceivers/SFPs included so that you can choose these options – need to add to order.
  • HP Virtual Connect 8Gb 24-Port FC Module for BladeSystem c-Class, redundant pair
    NOTE: Two [2] Fibre Channel SFP+ transceivers included with each module; therefore, 4 total transceivers per redundant pair.
  • BladeSystem Matrix documentation CD
  • BladeSystem Matrix label attached to 10000 series rack door handle

However, it also includes software licenses for:

  • Insight Dynamics – VSE suite for ProLiant with Insight Control suite
  • Insight Orchestration software
  • Insight Recovery software
  • Virtual Connect Enterprise Manager software
  • HP Insight Remote Support Advanced (formerly Remote Support Pack)

Once again, you’ll need to purchase the HP Professional Services – for installation; then your blade servers and the storage that you need.

As you can see, the HP BladeSystem Matrix is not a new product – it is an easy way to order HP BladeSystem products and use HP services and software to easily get your server infrastructure in place.  Let me know your thoughts – feel free to leave comments.  For more on the HP BladeSystem Matrix, visit HP’s web site at http://h18004.www1.hp.com/products/blades/components/matrix/main.html

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IBM BladeCenter HS22 Delivers Best SPECweb2005 Score Ever Achieved by a Blade Server

HS22According to IBM’s System x and BladeCenter x86 Server Blog, the IBM BladeCenter HS22 server has posted the best SPECweb2005 score ever from a blade server.  With a SPECweb2005 supermetric score of 75,155, IBM has reached a benchmark seen by no other blade yet to-date.  The SPECweb2005 benchmark is designed to be a neutral, equal benchmark for evaluting the peformance of web servers.  According to the IBM blog, the score is derived from three different workloads measured:

  • SPECweb2005_Banking – 109,200 simultaneous sessions
  • SPECweb2005_Ecommerce – 134,472 simultaneous sessions
  • SPECweb2005_Support – 64,064 simultaneous sessions

The HS22 achieved these results using two Quad-Core Intel Xeon Processor X5570 (2.93GHz with 256KB L2 cache per core and 8MB L3 cache per processor—2 processors/8 cores/8 threads). The HS22 was also configured with 96GB of memory, the Red Hat Enterprise Linux® 5.4 operating system, IBM J9 Java® Virtual Machine, 64-bit Accoria Rock Web Server 1.4.9 (x86_64) HTTPS software, and Accoria Rock JSP/Servlet Container 1.3.2 (x86_64).

It’s important to note that these results have not yet been “approved” by SPEC, the group who posts the results, but as soon as they are, they’ll be published at at http://www.spec.org/osg/web2005

The IBM HS22 is IBM’s most popular blade server with the following specs:

  • up to  2 x Intel 5500 Processors
  • 12 memory slots for a current maximum of 96Gb of RAM
  • 2 hot swap hard drive slots capable of running RAID 1 (SAS or SATA)
  • 2 PCI Express connectors for I/O expansion cards (NICs, Fibre HBAs, 10Gb Ethernet, CNA, etc)
  • Internal USB slot for running VMware ESXi
  • Remote management
  • Redundant connectivity

ibm_hs22_nehalem_blade

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(UPDATED) Officially Announced: IBM’s Nexus 4000 Switch: 4001I (PART 2)

I’ve gotten a lot of response from my first post, “REVEALED: IBM’s Nexus 4000 Switch: 4001I” and more information is coming out quickly so I decided to post a part 2. IBM officially announced the switch on October 20, 2009, so here’s some additional information:

  • The Nexus 4001I Switch for the IBM BladeCenter is part # 46M6071 and has a list price of $12,999 (U.S.) each
  • In order for the Nexus 4001I switch for the IBM BladeCenter to connect to an upstream FCoE switch, an additional software purchase is required. This item will be part # strong>49Y9983, “Software Upgrade License for Cisco Nexus 4001I.” This license upgrade allows for the Nexus 4001I to handle FCoE traffic. It has a U.S. list price of $3,899
  • The Cisco Nexus 4001I for the IBM BladeCenter will be compatible with the following blade server expansion cards
    • 2/4 Port Ethernet Expansion Card, part # 44W4479
    • NetXen 10Gb Ethernet Expansion Card, part # 39Y9271
    • Broadcom 2-port 10Gb Ethernet Exp. Card, part # 44W4466
    • Broadcom 4-port 10Gb Ethernet Exp. Card, part # 44W4465
    • Broadcom 10 Gb Gen 2 2-port Ethernet Exp. Card, part # 46M6168
    • Broadcom 10 Gb Gen 2 4-port Ethernet Exp. Card, part # 46M6164
    • QLogic 2-port 10Gb Converged Network Adapter, part # 42C1830
  • (UPDATED 10/22/09) The newly announced Emulex Virtual Adapter WILL NOT work with the Nexus 4001I IN VIRTUAL NIC (vNIC) mode.  It will work in pNIC mode according to IBM.

The Cisco Nexus 4001I switch for the IBM BladeCenter is a new approach to getting converged network traffic. As I posted a few weeks ago in my post, “How IBM’s BladeCenter works with BladeCenter H Diagram 6 x 10Gb UplinksCisco Nexus 5000” before the Nexus 4001I was announced, in order to get your blade servers to communicate with a Cisco Nexus 5000, you had to use a CNA,and a 10Gb Pass-Thru Module as shown on the left. The pass-thru module used in that solution requires for a direct connection to be made from the pass-thru module to the Cisco Nexus 5000 for every blade server that requires connectivity. This means for 14 blade servers, 14 connections are required to the Cisco Nexus 5000. This solution definitely works – it just eats up 14 Nexus 5000 ports. At $4,999 list (U.S.), plus the cost of the GBICs, the “pass-thru” scenario may be a good solution for budget conscious environments.

In comparison, with the IBM Nexus 4001I switch, we now can have as few as 1 uplink to the Cisco Nexus 5000 from the Nexus 4001I switch. This allows you to have more open ports on the Cisco Nexus 5000 for connections to other IBM Bladecenters with Nexus 4001I switches, or to allow connectivity from your rack based servers with CNAs.

Bottom line: the Cisco Nexus 4001I switch will reduce your port requirements on your Cisco Nexus 5000 or Nexus 7000 switch by allowing up to 14 servers to uplink via 1 port on the Nexus 4001I.

For more details on the IBM Nexus 4001I switch, I encourage you to go to the newly released IBM Redbook for the Nexus 4001I Switch.

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IBM Announces Emulex Virtual Fabric Adapter for BladeCenter…So?

Emulex Virtual Fabric AdapterEmulex and IBM announced today the availability of a new Emulex expansion card for blade servers that allows for up to 8 virtual nics to be assigned for each physical NIC.  The “Emulex Virtual Fabric Adapter for IBM BladeCenter (IBM part # 49Y4235)” is a CFF-H expansion card is based on industry-standard PCIe architecture and can operate as a “Virtual NIC Fabric Adapter” or as a dual-port 10 Gb or 1 Gb Ethernet card. 

When operating as a Virtual NIC (vNIC) each of the 2 physical ports appear to the blade server as 4 virtual NICs for a total of 8 virtual NICs per card.  According to IBM, the default bandwidth for each vNIC is 2.5 Gbps. The cool feature about this mode is that the bandwidth for each vNIC can be configured from 100 Mbps to 10 Gbps, up to a maximum of 10 Gb per virtual port.  The one catch with this mode is that it ONLY operates with the  BNT Virtual Fabric 10Gb Switch Module, which provides independent control for each vNIC.  This means no connection to Cisco Nexus…yet.  According to Emulex, firmware updates coming later (Q1 2010??) will allow for this adapter to be able to handle FCoE and iSCSI as a feature upgrade.  Not sure if that means compatibility with Cisco Nexus 5000 or not.  We’ll have to wait and see.

When used as a normal Ethernet Adapter (10Gb or 1Gb), aka “pNIC mode“, the card can is viewed as a  standard 10 Gbps or 1 Gbps 2-port Ethernet expansion card.   The big difference here is that it will work with any available 10 Gb switch or 10 Gb pass-thru module installed in I/O module bays 7 and 9.

BladeCenter H I-O

So What?
I’ve known about this adapter since VMworld, but I haven’t blogged about it because I just don’t see a lot of value.  HP has had this functionality for over a year now in their VirtualConnect Flex-10  offering so this technology is nothing new.  Yes, it would be nice to set up a NIC in VMware ESX that only uses 200MB of a pipe, but what’s the difference in having a fake NIC that “thinks” he’s only able to use 200MB vs a big fat 10Gb pipe for all of your I/O traffic.  I’m just not sure, but am open to any comments or thoughts.

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REVEALED: IBM's Nexus 4000 Switch: 4001I (Updated)

Finally – information on the soon-to-be-released Cisco Nexus 4000 switch for IBM BladeCenter.  Apparently IBM is officially calling their version “Cisco Nexus Switch Module 4001I for the IBM BladeCenter.”  I’m not sure if it’s “officially” announced yet, but I’ve uncovered some details.  Here is a summary of the Cisco Nexus Switch Module 4001I for the IBM BladeCenter:Nexus 4000i Photo

  • Six external 10-Gb Ethernet ports for uplink
  • 14 internal XAUI ports for connection to the server blades in the chassis
  • One 10/100/1000BASE-T RJ-45 copper management port for out-of-band management link  (this port is available on the front panel next to the console port)
  • One external RS-232 serial console port  (this port is available on the front panel and uses an RJ-45 connector)

More tidbits of info:

  • The switch will be capable of forwarding Ethernet and FCoE packets at wire rate speed. 
  • The six external ports will be SFP+ (no surprise) and they’ll support 10GBASE-SR SFP+, 10GBASE-LR SFP+, 10GBASE-CU SFP+ and GE-SFP.
  • Internal port speeds can run at 1 Gb or 10Gb (and can be set to auto-negotiate); full duplex
  • Internal ports will be able to forward Layer-2 packets at wire rate speed.
  • The switch will work in the IBM BladeCenter “high-speed bays” (bays 7, 8, 9 and 10); however at this time, the available Converged Network Adapters (CNAs) for the IBM blade servers will only work with Nexus 4001I’s located in bays 7 and 9.

There is also mention of a “Nexus 4005I” from IBM, but I can’t find anything on that.  I do not believe that IBM has announced this product, so the information provided is based on documentation from Cisco’s web site.  I expect announcement to come in the next 2 weeks, though, with availability probably following in November just in time for the Christmas rush!

For details on the information mentioned above, please visit the Cisco web site, titled “Cisco Nexus 4001I and 4005I Switch Module for IBM BladeCenter Hardware Installation Guide“. 

If you are interested in finding out more about configuring the NX-OS for the Cisco Nexus Switch Module 4001I for the IBM BladeCenter, check out the Cisco Nexus 4001I and 4005I Switch Module for IBM BladeCenter NX-OS Configuration Guide

 UPDATE (10/20/09): the IBM part # for the Cisco Nexus 4001I Switch Module will be 46M6071

 UPDATE # 2 (10/20/09,  17:37 PM EST): Found more Cisco links:
Cisco Nexus 4001I Switch Module At A Glance

Cisco Nexus 4001I Switch Module DATA SHEET

New Picture:

Nexus 4000i Photo 2

 

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What Gartner Thinks of Cisco, HP, IBM and Dell (UPDATED)

(UPDATED 10/28/09 with new links to full article)

I received a Tweet from @HPITOps linked to Gartner’s first ever “Magic Quadrant” for blade servers.  Gartner Magic Quadrant - October 2009The Magic Quadrant is a tool that Gartner put together to help people easily where manufacturers rank, based on certain criteria.  As the success of blade servers continues to grow, the demand for blades increases.  You can read the complete Gartner paper at http://h20195.www2.hp.com/v2/getdocument.aspx?docname=4AA3-0100ENW.pdf, but I wanted to touch on a few highlights.

Key Points

  • *Blades are less than 15% of the server marketplace today.
  • *HP and IBM make up 70% of the blade market share
  • *HP, IBM and Dell are classified as “Leaders” in the blade market place and Cisco is listed as a “Visionary” 

What Gartner Says About Cisco, Dell, HP and IBM

Cisco
Cisco announced their entry into the blade server market place in early 2009 and as of the past few weeks began shipping their first product.  Gartner’s report says, “Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS) is highly innovative and is particularly targeted at highly integrated and virtualized enterprise requirements.”  Gartner currently views Cisco as being in the “visionaries” quadrant.  The report comments that Cisco’s strengths are:

  • they have a  global presence in “most data centers”
  • differentiated blade design
  • they have a cross-selling opportunity across their huge install base
  • they have strong relationships with virtualization and integration vendors

As part of the report, Gartner also mentions some negative points (aka “Cautions”) about Cisco to consider:

  • Lack of blade server install base
  • limited blade portfolio
  • limited hardware certification by operating system and application software vendors

Obviously these Cautions are based on Cisco’s newness to the marketplace, so let’s wait 6 months and check back on what Gartner thinks.

Dell
No stranger to the blade marketplace, Dell continues to produce new servers and new designs.  While Dell has a fantastic marketing department, they still are not anywhere close to the market share that IBM and HP split.  In spite of this, Gartner still classifies Dell in the “leaders” quadrant.  According to the report, “Dell offers Intel and AMD Opteron blade servers that are well-engineered, enterprise-class platforms that fit well alongside the rest of DelI’s x86 server portfolio, which has seen the company grow its market share steadily through the past 18 months.

The report views that Dell’s strengths are:

  • having a cross-selling opportunity to sell blades to their existing server, desktop and notebook customers
  • aggressive pricing policies
  • focused in innovating areas like cooling and virtual I/O

Dell’s “cautions” are reported as:

  • having a limited portfolio that is targeted toward enterprise needs
  • bad history of “patchy committment” to their blade platforms

It will be interesting to see where Dell takes their blade model.  It’s easy to have a low price model on entry level rack servers, but in a blade server infrastructure where standardization is key and integrated switches are a necessity having the lowest pricing may get tough.

IBM
Since 2002, IBM has ventured into the blade server marketplace with an wide variety of server and chassis offerings.  Gartner placed IBM in the “leaders” quadrant as well, although they place IBM much higher and to the right signifying a “greater ability to execute” and a “more complete vision.”  While IBM once had the lead in blade server market share, they’ve since handed that over to HP.  Gartner reports, “IBM is putting new initiatives in place to regain market share, including supply chain enhancements, dedicated sales resources and new channel programs. 

The report views that IBM’ strengths are:

  • strong global market share
  • cross selling opportunities to sell into existing IBM System x, System i, System p and System z customers
  • broad set of chassis options that address specialized needs (like DC power & NEBS compliance for Telco) as well as Departmental / Enterprise
  • blade server offerings for x86 and Power Processors
  • strong record of management tools
  • innovation around cooling and specialized workloads

Gartner only lists one “caution” for IBM and that is their loss of market share to HP since 2007.

HP
Gartner identifies HP as being in the farthest right in the October 2009 Magic Quadrant, therefore I’ll classify HP as being the #1 “leader.”  Gartner’s report says, “Since the 2006 introduction of its latest blade generation, HP has recaptured market leadership and now sells more blade servers than the rest of the market combined.”  Ironically, Gartner list of HP’s strengths is nearly identical to IBM:

  • global blade market leader
  • cross selling opportunities to sell into existing HP server, laptop and desktop customers
  • broad set of chassis options that address Departmental and Enterprise needs
  • blade server offerings for x86 and Itanium Processors
  • strong record of management tools
  • innovation around cooling and virtual I/O

Gartner only lists one “caution” for HP and that is their portfolio, as extensive as it may be, could be considered too complex and it could be too close to HP’s alternative, modular, rack-based offering.

Gartner’s report continues to discuss other niche players like Fujitsu, NEC and Hitachi, so if you are interesting in reading about them, check out the full report at 

http://h20195.www2.hp.com/v2/getdocument.aspx?docname=4AA3-0100ENW.pdf.  All-in-all, Gartner’s report reaffirms that HP, IBM and Dell are the market leaders, for now, with Cisco coming up behind them.

Feel free to comment on this post and let me know what you think.

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