HP Launches New Blade Design

Features in HP's new blade server architecture target management, virtualization and power and cooling concerns.

Hewlett-Packard is rolling out a new blade server architecture designed to improve server density and management features while cutting down on operational and power costs.

The new BladeSystem c-Class blade server, announced at a press conference June 14 at HPs Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters, officially kicks off a program that company officials had talked about informally to bring all of their data center offerings into a bladed form factor.

"This is the essence of the next-generation data center," Ann Livermore, executive vice president of HPs Technology Solutions Group, said during the press conference.

"This thing is a big announcement in a very small package ... What weve [shown] today is an adaptive enterprise in a 17-inch box."

HPs announcement comes at a time when the other top-tier OEMs—particularly IBM, its primary competitor in the blade server space—are looking to grow their shares of the fast-growing market.

IBM, which in February 2006 unveiled its BladeCenter H chassis and blade server roadmap, recently touted advances made in its Blade.org initiative, including more than a dozen new members, new financial backing and a new product based on the BladeCenter platform.

Dell officials later this month will launch their PowerEdge 1955, the next generation of their blade servers, which they say will feature greater manageability features.

In addition, John Fowler, executive vice president of Sun Microsystems systems group, told reporters June 13 that the company is preparing to release its new line of blade servers—dubbed "Andromeda"—later this summer.

The new servers, based on Advanced Micro Devices Opteron processors, will be Suns first push in two years into the blade server space.

Its not surprising that the largest systems makers are focusing so much attention and investment on the blade market. Analyst firm IDC, of Framingham, Mass., expects it to grow to $10 billion by 2009, and said that revenue grew 43 percent in the first quarter this year over the same period in 2005.

IBM and HP currently are one and two in the market, with IBM holding a 40.1 percent, and HP holding 35.6 percent.

"HPs strategy is to blade everything," said Mark Potter, vice president of HPs Enterprise Storage and Servers unit.

That not only includes ProLiant-based systems, but also Itanium-based Integrity servers and storage devices, officials said.

The company announced one-, two- and four-socket systems running on Intels Xeon and Itanium chips, as well as AMDs Opteron.

Blades based on HPs NonStop high-availability servers and high-end Superdome systems are on the way, they said.

HP and IBM are taking different approaches with these latest generations of blades. Where IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., wanted to ensure that previous generations could fit in the new chassis, HP is rolling out an entirely new chassis with the c-Class, which will ship in July 2006.

While the current p-Class blades wont run in the new c-Class chassis, the systems can interoperate via common management tools and interfaces.

Livermore said HP will continue to protect customer investments by selling the current p-Class through 2007, and supporting those systems through 2012.

HP officials said the recent moves by IBM amounted to little more than tweaking an outdated design. HP took technologies from across its product line to create the new c-Class systems, they said.

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Among the new features are Insight Control Management, which through a single console automates the management of servers, storage and networking devices, and power and cooling capabilities.

The tool offers a 200-to-1 device-to-administrator ratio, a ten-times improvement in current environments, officials said.

In addition, each chassis features an LCD display to help customers monitor and troubleshoot blade devices. That feature was adapted from similar ones found on HP printers, Miller said.

HPs Virtual Connect Architecture, derived from virtualization capabilities found on the NonStop systems, will allow customers to create virtual interconnect fabrics.

In the area of power and cooling, the companys Thermal Logic Technologies offer thermal controls at the server, enclosure and rack levels, and the new systems feature HPs Active Cool Fan technology, which officials said cuts airflow by 30 percent in the server and saves 50 percent in power consumption compared with traditional fans.

Overall, the c-Class blades can save up to 40 percent more power than rack-mounted servers.

The new blade servers including the BL480c—which offers features found in the rack-mount DL380, HPs best-selling server—and the BL460c.

The systems also come with a host of support services, and HP will offer financing packages designed to help customers migrate to the new design, both from the current p-Class architecture and from IBMs BladeCenter.

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