Tag Archives: Dell

(UPDATED) Blade Servers with SD Slots for Virtualization

(updated 1/13/2010 – see bottom of blog for updates)

Eric Gray at www.vcritical.com blogged today about the benefits of using a flash based device, like an SD card, for loading VMware ESXi, so I thought I would take a few minutes to touch on the topic.

As Eric mentions, probably the biggest benefit of using VMware ESXi on an embedded device is that you don’t need local drives, which lowers the power and cooling of your blade server.  While he mentions HP in his blog, both HP and Dell offer SD slots in their blade servers – so let’s take a look:

HP
HP currently offers these SD slots in their BL460 G6 and BL490 G6 blade servers.  As you can see from the picture on the left (thanks again to Eric at vCritical.com) HP allows for you to access the SD slot from the top of the blade server.  This makes it fairly convenient to access, although once the image is installed on the SD card, it’s probably not ever coming out.  HP’s QuickSpecs for the BL460 G6 state offer up an “HP 4GB SD Flash Media” that has a current list price of $70, however I have been unable to find any documentation that says you MUST use this SD card, so if you want to try and use it with your own personal SD card first, good luck.  It is important to note that HP does not currently offer VMware ESXi, or any other virtualization vendor’s software, pre-installed on an SD card, unlike Dell.

Dell
Dell has been offering SD slots on select servers for quite a while.  In fact, I can remember seeing it at VMworld 2008.  Everyone else was showing “embedded hypervisors” on USB keys while Dell was using an SD card.  I don’t know that I have a personal preference of USB vs SD, but the point is that Dell was ahead of the game on this one.

Dell currently only offers their SD slot on their M805 and M905 blade servers.  These are full-height servers, which could be considered good candidates for a virtualization server due to its redundant connectivity, high memory offering and high I/O (but that’s for another blog post.)

Dell chose to place the SD slots on the bottom rear of their blade servers.  I’m not sure I agree with the placement, because if you needed to access the card, for whatever reason, you have to pull the server completely out of the chassis to service.  It’s a small thing, but it adds time and complexity to the serviceability of the server.  

An advantage that Dell has over HP is they offer to have VMware ESXi 4 PRE-LOADED on the SD key upon delivery.  Per the Dell website, an SD card with ESXi 4 (basic, not Standard or Enterprise) is available for $99.  It’s listed as “VMware ESXi v4.0 with VI4, 4CPU, Embedded, Trial, No Subsc, SD,NoMedia“.  Yes, it’s considered a “trial” and it’s the basic version with no bells or whistles, however it is pre-loaded which equals time savings.  There are additional options to upgrade the ESXi to either Standard or Enterprise as well (for additional cost, of course.)

It is important to note that this discussion was only about SD slots.  All of the blade server vendors, including IBM, have incorporated USB slots internally to their blade servers, so whereas a specific server may not have an SD slot, there is still the ability to load the hypervisor onto an USB key (where supported.)

1/13/2010 UPDATE –SD slots are also available on the BL 280G6 and BL 685 G6.

There is also an HP Advisory discouraging use of an internal USB key for embedded virtualization.  Check it out at:

http://h20000.www2.hp.com/bizsupport/TechSupport/Document.jsp?objectID=c01957637&lang=en&cc=us&taskId=101&prodSeriesId=3948609&prodTypeId=3709945

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Interesting HP Server Facts (from IDC)

As you can see from my blog title, I try to focus on “all things blade servers”, however I came across this bit of information that I thought would be fun to blog.  An upfront warning – this is an HP biased blog post, so sorry for those of you who are Cisco, Dell or IBM fans.

Market research firm, IDC released a quarterly update to their Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker, citing market share figures for the 3rd calendar quarter of 2009 (3Q09).  From this report, there are a few fun HP server facts (thanks to HP for passing these facts along to me:)

HP is the #1 vendor in worldwide server shipments for the 30th consecutive quarter (7.5 years). HP shipped more than 1 out of every 3 servers worldwide and captured 36.5 percent total unit shipment share.

According to IDC:

  • HP shipped over 161,000 more servers than #2 Dell.
  • HP shipped 2.6 times as many servers as #3 IBM
  • 9.0 times as #4 Fujitsu
  • 12.9 times as many as #5 Sun.
  • HP ended up in a statistical tie with IBM for #1 in total server revenue market share with 30.9 percent.  This includes all server (UNIX and x86 revenues.)

HP leads the blade server market, with a 50.7 percent revenue share, and a 47.7 percent unit share.

I blogged about this in early December (see this link for details),but it’s no surprise that HP is leading the pack in blade sales.  Their field sales team is actively promoting blades for nearly every server opportunity and they continue to make innovative additions to their blades (like 10Gb NICs standard on G6 blades.)   HP Integrity blades claimed the #1 position in revenue share for the RISC+EPIC blade segment with a 53.2 percent share gaining 1.8 points year over year.

For the 53rd consecutive quarter, more than 13 years, HP ProLiant is the x86 server market share leader in both factory revenue and units, shipping more than 1 out of every 3 servers in this market with a 36.9 percent unit share.

 HP’s x86 revenue share was 14.6 points higher than its nearest competitor; Dell. HP’s x86 revenue share was 19.2 percentage points higher than IBM.

 For the 3 major operating environments UNIX®, Windows and Linux combined (representing 99.3 percent of all servers shipped worldwide), HP is number 1 worldwide in server unit shipment and revenue market share.

HP holds a 36.5 percent unit market share worldwide, which is 2.6 times more than IBM’s unit market share and 12.9 times the unit share of Sun.

HP holds a 35.4 percent revenue market share worldwide which is 2.2 times the revenue share of Dell and 4.0 times the revenue share of Sun.

FINAL NOTE:  All of the following market share figures are for the 3rd quarter (unless otherwise noted) and represent worldwide results as reported by the IDC Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker for Q309, December 2009.

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Great Dell Blade Server Page – "Dell TechCenter Wiki"

Looking through my previous posts it would appear that I’m against Dell’s blade server.  That’s not the case.  The reality is that it is hard to find good technical info on Dell’s product – that is until recently.  A search on SwagBucks.com led me to a little-known Dell website, called “Dell TechCenter Wiki“. 

The site, located at http://www.delltechcenter.com/, is a Dell sponsored wiki where you can find technical info on servers, storage, and even virtualization.  The wiki also provides recorded demos, white papers and even weekly chats with Dell experts to get your hard-to-answer questions answered.  Last week’s chat offered  an overview of new features available with the Dell Chassis Management Controller (CMC) for remote monitoring and access of system component information and status of Dell PowerEdge™ M1000e modular blade enclosures. 

As you can tell, this information can be extremely valueable to an IT professional with Dell blade servers, so I encourage you to check it out and let me know what you think.

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IDC Q3 2009 Report: Blade Servers are Growing, HP Leads in Shares

IDC reported on Wednesday that blade server sales for Q3 2009 returned to quarterly revenue growth with factory revenues increasing 1.2% year over year.  However there was a 14.0% year-over-year shipment decline.  Overall blade servers accounted for $1.4 billion in Q3 2009 which represented 13.6% of the overall server revenue.  Of the top 5 OEM blade manufacturers, IBM experienced the strongest blade growth gaining 6.0 points of market share.  However, overall market share for Q3 2009 still belongs to HP with 50.7%, with IBM following up with 29.4% and Dell in 3rd place with a lowly 8.9% revenue share.Q3_2009_Blades According to Jed Scaramella, senior research analyst in IDC's Datacenter and Enterprise Server group,  "Customers are leveraging blade technologies to optimize their environments in response to the pressure of the economic downturn and tighter budgets. Blade technologies provide IT organizations the capability to simplify their IT while improving asset utilization, IT flexibility, and energy efficiency.  For the second consecutive quarter, the blade segment increased in revenue on a quarter-to-quarter basis, while simultaneously increasing their average sales value (ASV). This was driven by next generation processors (Intel Nehalem) and a greater amount of memory, which customers are utilizing for more virtualization deployments. IDC sees virtualization and blades are closely associated technologies that drive dynamic IT for the future datacenter."

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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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