HP revamps blade server line

HP revamps blade server line

Hewlett-Packard Co. last week unveiled the next generation of its blade server systems, which add improved management capabilities and technologies from its NonStop fault-tolerant line.

The new product line is the result of a three-year development effort that stemmed from HP's expectations that users will increasingly rely on blade technologies.

HP user Sodexho Alliance DS agrees with that notion, expecting that the technology will eventually spread through its IT operations. The Montigny le Bretonneux, France-based food-service company runs a data center in Buffalo, N.Y., that houses some 300 Intel-based Windows servers, 25% of which run on HP's current p-Class blades.

Later this year, the company will begin a gradual migration to the new c-Class servers announced last week, said Kevin Galvin, Sodexho's information services and technology director of LAN services.

Ultimately, he said, Sodexho hopes to replace all of its rack-mounted servers with blades. Galvin said the blades should lead to "significant labor savings, because we're trying to automate things."

The company also expects that the blades will one day let it virtualize its Windows operating system environment, which Galvin said should further cut Sodexho's IT equipment and software costs.

New features

The HP BladeSystem c-Class technology will replace the p-Class blade, HP said. The company said it will continue to produce the latter blades through 2007 and will support them through 2012.

The HP c-Class chassis can hold 16 server and storage blades; its p-Class predecessor supports 12 blades, HP said.

The new management features include improved integration with other servers, storage that allows virtualization and management from one environment, and LCD screens for monitoring the system.

Blade systems using Intel Corp.'s latest Dempsey and Woodcrest dual-core processors will ship in July. Pricing for those systems will be disclosed when they ship. HP plans to add blades runningAdvanced Micro Devices Inc.'s Opteron processors by September and Intel's Itanium processors by the end of the year.

Scott Stallard, an HP senior vice president and general manager of the company's enterprise servers and storage group, said that HP plans to build NonStop blades, though those products won't ship for several years. In the interim, the c-Class server incorporates NonStop capabilities for adding connections and updating systems without having to take other systems down, he said.

Screens for actors

One HP blade user, Kevin Donnellan, director of enterprise infrastructure services at theScreen Actors Guild, said the addition of LCD screens will simplify his environment.

"If they can really work, they are going to be a great boon to my administrators," said Donnellan. "A visual display really does help a lot."

The Hollywood-based labor union has been moving from rack-mounted servers to blade servers, but Donnellan noted that some applications, such as the voice response system used with SAG's telephone service, can't be run on a blade.

Although Donnellan hasn't tested the c-Class blade servers yet, he predicted that the new management controls and tools will let his organization manage more blades without increasing head count. "The c-Class blades should give us a lot easier management," he said.

Donnellan said he has gone from 20 Windows-based blades to about 70 blades over the past three years and has been able to manage those systems without hiring additional Windows systems administrators.

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