The race to provide high-end gear for the new world of virtualized data centers is picking up speed. Hewlett Packard on Monday unveiled a new blade server system and storage gear that aims to turn computing, storage, and networking capacity into pools of virtual resources that can be allocated as needed to support applications and business processes.
Along with the HP BladeSystem Matrix, the company unveiled the first new LeftHand storage since HP bought that company last year. The HP LeftHand P4000 SAN is available as a standalone iSCSI SAN product or within a virtualized blade server infrastructure in a bundle called HP StorageWorks SB40c with P4000 Virtual SAN Appliance Software. The introduction comes a month after Cisco entered the blade server market by announcing its plans for a Unified Computing System for virtualized data centers, and a week after EMC introduced a Symmetrix V-Max storage system and new architecture, aimed at the same market. Cisco and EMC are working together to ensure their gear interoperates.
One of the challenges that data center managers have had to confront as they load many virtual servers on a single physical server is the demand placed on networks and storage systems, especially when virtual servers are moved from one physical machine to another to balance loads or improve performance. The ability of networks and storage systems to supply sufficient bandwidth or storage connectivity often is a limiting factor in server virtualization.
"We are taking the LeftHand software and putting in standard x86 servers and creating storage nodes and clustering multiple nodes into a single pool of storage," says Chris McCall, a product manager in the LeftHand Networks Division of HP. "That lets us scale performance along with capacity and increase the utilization of resources and avoid bottlenecks."
By adding the LeftHand software into a blade server rack, HP is creating virtual storage nodes shared over a network but with the economic benefits of direct-attached storage, McCall says. This is another step in converging data center equipment to simplify management and reduce power and cooling needs. The Virtual SAN Appliance software can run on a server running a VMware hypervisor and is "the only virtual SAN certified with VMware," he says. Building an iSCSI SAN within a blade infrastructure, customers will be able to add capacity and scale out to more than one enclosure, increasing redundancy and reliability. "Others are limited to one blade enclosure. With our integrated replication and Network RAID, our systems can stay online even with an enclosure failure," McCall says.