HP Converged Infrastructure Push Includes Servers, Networking, Storage

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2013-02-21

HP Converged Infrastructure Push Includes Servers, Networking, Storage

Hewlett-Packard officials are looking to expand their converged infrastructure offerings with new blade server, networking and storage offerings to deal with such data center trends as cloud, big data, mobility and bring-your-own-device (BYOD).

HP unveiled the new products Feb. 19 during its annual Global Partner Conference, two days before rival VCE—a partnership between Cisco Systems, VMware and EMC—introduced midrange versions of its own Vblock converged infrastructure offerings.

The expanded offerings illustrate the increasing competition in the data center as more vendors look to offer businesses more complete end-to-end IT solutions—including converged infrastructures—that include everything from servers and storage to networking, virtualization and software. HP, a veteran of this space, made some strong moves with its new offerings, which is needed in a space where competition is coming from the likes of IBM and Cisco, according to Richard Fichera, a Forrester analyst.

"From a competitive standpoint, HP's improvements shore up some critical shortcomings and will make it that much more difficult for competitors to displace HP on a technology feature basis," Fichera said in post on the Forrester blog site, noting that "with three dominant world-class system suppliers (and enough second-tier competition to avoid any chance of oligopolistic behavior) competing for the fastest-growing segment of the x86 market, it will remain intensely competitive and richly rewarding to customers for the foreseeable future."

Among the key announcements are HP's new BladeSystem c7000 Platinum enclosure, an update of the c-Class enclosure the tech giant first introduced in 2006. The new enclosure—which provides the power, cooling and I/O infrastructure for servers, networking and storage devices—offers improved performance and availability of resources in virtualized and cloud computing environments, as well as better networking capabilities.

The 10U (17.5-inch) enclosure can hold up to 16 server blades or storage blades—or a combination of both—as well as optional network and storage interconnect modules. The new c7000 Platinum enclosure will save businesses as much as 68 percent in operating costs in the data center, and offers a 40 percent increase in bandwidth over HP's previous c-Class enclosures, according to Paul Birney, director of blade and cloud product marketing for HP's Industry Standard Servers and Software unit.

The enclosure also comes with HP's new SX1018 Ethernet switch, which is four times faster than previous switches, Birney said. HP is the first to bring 40GB downlinks to each blade server, which will be important in such environments as high-performance computing or financial services workloads, which demand both high bandwidth and low latency, he said. Forrester's Fichera applauded the move.

"Each blade can have up to two 40-G bit mezzanine adapters, which when combined with the embedded 2x10-G-bit FlexNICs can provide up to 100 G bits of connectivity to a single blade," he said in his blog post. "While we don't expect HP to be alone for long, this is a major advance for bandwidth-hungry applications."

HP's Birney said that the company is "eight years into the life of the c-Class [enclosure], and we're still innovating and still going strong."

HP Converged Infrastructure Push Includes Servers, Networking, Storage

HP also rolled out enhancements to its Virtual Connect technology, improving its quality-of-service (QoS) capabilities and its ability to handle Fibre Channel-over-Ethernet (FCoE) traffic. In addition, HP added a 24GB registered dual in-line memory module (RDIMM) that will bring better density-per-slot and a 25 percent performance gain over current DIMM configurations.

HP's new workstation blade, the ProLiant WS460C Generation 8, offers eight GPUs per blade and supports four times more users per host blade, lowering costs for users by up to 60 percent over previous generations.

In storage, HP is offering new StoreVirtual Storage offerings, which are software-defined storage delivered either as a virtual storage appliance through software or as a converged storage appliance on ProLiant servers. The new systems are based on HP's ProLiant Generation 8, offering twice the performance and capacity density compared with earlier models. HP also is offering the channel a prepackaged midrange model that combines its 3Par StoreServ and StoreOnce Backup products.

For HP customers, the new offerings mean more clarity on the product road map, preparation for the next generation of Ethernet connectivity and a show of solid commitment to the Virtual Connect products, Fichera said.

It's also a "clear sign that the server group has not lost its focus," he wrote. "In earlier posts on the impact of HP's management and financial fiascos I stated that the core product groups were still competent and focused. I view this announcement as a clear token of this focus. While it is impossible to tell whether or not the decision to enhance rather than replace was driven purely by pragmatic product planning or partially influenced by budget constraints, it looks to me to be a very carefully focused set of enhancements delivered by a group of people who have kept their heads down and focused on their customers for the last one to two years, regardless of what their executive management has been up to."

HP also announced new unified wired and wireless offerings that will help businesses deal with the growing BYOD trend and give partners new services they can bring to their customers. The HP offerings come as BYOD continues to push its way to the forefront of IT issues businesses struggle with. Pointing to numbers from analyst firms Forrester, IDC and Gartner, HP officials note that about half of all workers are using three or more devices for work—but that IT staffs don't see all those devices—about 4.5 billion personal client devices will be on networks in 2015, and that through 2014, employee-owned devices will be hit by malware at a rate twice that of corporate-owned devices. By 2016, two-thirds of the workforce will own smartphones, and 40 percent will be mobile.

The problem is that legacy networks are not designed to handle the rapidly changing business landscape, requiring two networks and management applications for wired and wireless connectivity, according to Kash Shaikh, senior director of product and technical marketing for HP Networking. The results are expensive, complex networks that are difficult to scale and don't have the security capabilities needed for BYOD.

HP Converged Infrastructure Push Includes Servers, Networking, Storage

HP is proposing a unified BYOD solution based on software-defined networking (SDN) principles and HP's FlexNework platform that makes loading new devices on the network, provisioning them and monitoring them easier.

The company's new 830 Unified/WLAN switch eliminates the need for separate switches, controllers and other network access devices for wired and wireless networks, making operations more simple and reducing costs by as much as 38 percent. HP also is bringing Wi-Fi Clear Connect software to its WLAN products, and integrated BYOD management capabilities via the Smart Connect offering in HP's Intelligent Management Center (IMC).

IMC can not only manage HP equipment, but also equipment from other vendors, such as Cisco, according to Shaikh.

"We believe we manage Cisco better than Cisco, with IMC," he told eWEEK. "Operation simplicity is the key which can be the turning point for non-HP customers [using] IMC. ... Simplification is the key."

To scale the network to deliver unified access from the data center to branch networks, HP is offering its 2920 Switch Series, which can support OpenFlow, the protocol that forms the basis of many SDN efforts. The switch offers a 100 percent gain in network performance and 45 percent improvement in data transfer. In addition, HP's 105000/7500 Unified Wired-WLAN Module increases network availability and costs by as much as 54 percent.

In the area of security in the face of BYOD in campus and branch offices, HP is offering the Sentinel Security SDN application, which offers automated and real-time threat detection. In addition, the IMC User Access Manager, for securing bringing devices onto the network, offers businesses a single platform for identifying users, applying policies and bringing secure access to employee-owned devices. It also monitors the health of the network.

HP also is looking to help partners develop BYOD-targeted services they can sell to their customers. HP is offering FlexNetwork Design and Validation Services, which help partners simplify the network design and validation processes for their customers. Meanwhile, the company's Wireless LAN LifeCycle Services are aimed at LANs for scalable network connectivity, while through HP's Financial Services, businesses can bring in all the hardware, software and services they need for their projects.

HP also offers network training and certification through the ExpertOne program that offers BYOD and SDN skills. The program includes everything from courses to Web-based learning to access to remote labs.

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