By Francis Chu  |  Posted 2004-09-27 Print this article Print

Hewlett-Packard Co.s ProLiant BL p-Class blade servers provide a modular and flexible platform thats well-suited for tackling multitier applications in space-constrained data centers.

eWEEK Labs tested two blades in the BL p-Class family: the ProLiant BL20p G3 and the ProLiant BL30p. We were impressed with their 64-bit support, flexible modular components, solid management tools, and enterprise-class scalability and redundancy.

The two-way BL20p G3 is designed to host multitier applications and provides 64-bit capabilities and large on-board storage; the two-way BL30p offers a higher level of density to address HPC (high-performance computing) applications and headless environments. Also available, but not tested for this series of reviews, is the four-way BL40p, which provides enough horsepower to handle back-end or mission-critical applications but with the modular benefits of the blade form factor.

The $17,000 ProLiant BL p-Class system we tested included a BL p-Class blade server enclosure, a BL20p G3 blade and a BL30p blade. A BL20p G3 blade server with dual 3.4GHz Xeon processors costs $6,850, while a BL30p blade server with dual 3.2GHz Xeon processors costs $5,200.

The ProLiant BL20p G3 is the new workhorse blade in HPs BL p-Class lineup. Armed with the latest Intel Corp. Xeon processors, with EM64T (Extended Memory 64 Technology), the BL20p G3 is a good choice for filling out rack systems and getting enterprise infrastructures ready for the 64-bit shift.

Click here to read more about Intels Extended Memory 64 Technology. The BL20p G3 uses the new Intel E7520 chip set, which sports a fast 800MHz FSB (front-side bus) and can support up to two 3.6GHz Xeon EM64T processors. The BL20p G3 scales up to 8GB of PC3200 DDR (double-data-rate)-2 memory with four DIMM (dual in-line memory module) slots. The system also can support as many as two hot-swappable Ultra 320 SCSI hard drives, providing a maximum internal storage capacity of 300GB per blade.

Up to eight BL20p G3 blades can be installed vertically into the 6U (10.5-inch) BL p-Class blade server enclosure. Depending on the power configuration, an industry-standard rack can accommodate as many as five BL p-Class enclosures fully populated with BL20p G3 blades for a maximum of 40 blades per rack.

The more compact BL30p can be configured with two Xeon DP 3.2GHz processors and uses the ServerWorks GC-LE chip set from Broadcom Corp.

As many as 16 BL30p blades fit into the 6U ProLiant p-Class blade server enclosure. The BL30ps small footprint (as many as 96 BL30 blades can fit into a standard data center rack) limits its internal storage to a maximum of 120GB with two 60GB small-form-factor EIDE (enhanced IDE) hard drives. The BL30p has two DIMM slots but does not support memory interleaving.

The BL30ps small size makes it a good choice for headless environments, where highly dense computational nodes run clustering and HPC applications with direct attachment to NAS (network-attached storage) or SAN (storage area network) systems.

To support the BL30p blades, the BL p-Class enclosure must be upgraded with enhanced backplanes. The enhanced backplanes also provide a single ILO (Integrated Lights-Out) port for all installed server blades, new firmware that automates ILO IP addressing and support for future interconnect options.

The BL p-Class power enclosure houses the power supplies and power distribution components for the BL p-Class enclosures. Depending on the power distribution configuration, as many as five blade enclosures can be supported in a rack using two power enclosures. Having a separate power subsystem provides better power management capabilities but also means less blade density overall.

The BL p-Class blades use the same management platform that HP provides for its standard ProLiant servers: Sites that have already deployed HPs Systems Insight Manager and HP Essentials Rapid Deployment Pack will be able to quickly integrate the BL p-Class blades into their management infrastructure.

Systems Insight Manager provides centralized system management and inventory tracking, while Rapid Deployment Pack handles automated server deployment and provisioning.

During tests, we used ProLiant DL360 and ProLiant DL380 servers to host the Systems Insight Manager and Rapid Deployment Pack applications. Although we found that both management tools offer an intuitive way to automate many mundane system administration tasks and facilitate large-scale server deployments, we prefer the more centralized and granular management capabilities found in the Control Tower 6G appliance from RLX Technologies Inc. better.

For direct remote access and out-of-band server management, administrators can directly connect with individual blades using the ILO port on each.

On the blades we tested, the ILO ports come standard with advanced features such as full graphical access to host server KVM (keyboard, video and mouse switch) and virtual media.

Check out eWEEK.coms Infrastructure Center at http://infrastructure.eweek.com for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.


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