HP Adds Shared Storage to Blade Server

New server and storage gear for virtualized data centers includes iSCSI and direct-connect SAS systems

April 21, 2009

5 Min Read
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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.HP also introduced HP Storage Works 600 Modular Disk System, direct-connect SAS storage for its HP BladeSystem. It lets storage administrators easily allocate storage to blade servers so it looks like local storage, rather than networked storage. "We are redefining direct-attached storage," says Lenore Adam, a product manager in the blade storage group of HP.

The MDS600 can hold up to 70 1-TB drives and up to six can be connected to a single BladeSystem. For customers needing a lot of capacity, HP said the system can scale up to 420 TB of storage that can be allocated across 16 BladeSystem servers.

"This is simple and straightforward storage that a server administrator can handle and will be good for unstructured data," Adam says. HP introduced the SAS switch last year and now is adding connectivity to the MDS600.

The storage announcements were made when HP introduced the latest move in its "adaptive infrastructure" data center initiative, which the company has been pushing for several years now. Company executives were quick to point out that all of the newly announced products are available for purchase today, "unlike our competition," a not-so-subtle slap at Cisco, which announced but didn't roll out its new data center server products last month. HP, of course, offers a full menu of products for data centers, from servers to storage to its ProCurve networking switches.

"This has been a multiyear trip for us. The goal is to blade everything, virtually connect everything, and automate everything," says Jim Ganthier, vice president of infrastructure software and blades at HP. "IT departments should have pools of resources and should be able to reach into those pools, take what they need, and when they are done put those resources back in the pool for reuse. There is no magic involved. This is built using proved, converged infrastructure."A key emphasis for the company is to automate much of the management of systems in the data center, and it highlighted the ability to create templates to handle much of the provisioning, planning, consolidation, and recovery processes. IT managers can create a template and define the amount of computing, storage, networking, power and cooling, and other resources for, say, a mail and message system for 500 people or an e-store. Once it has been reviewed and approved, it can be used over and over again to quickly create systems, applications, and processes as needed.

Ganthier says the HP Systems Insights Manager software gathers information from agents and will let IT managers optimize for any number of factors, including performance or density or power usage or a mix. "We are trying to create a push-button infrastructure," he says.

At the same time, HP says it will cut costs for IT departments struggling with tight budgets by consolidating networking equipment by 4-to-1 and cutting server costs by 45 percent. The company also says it can substantially improve storage utilization rates and slash power and cooling costs.

InformationWeek Analytics has published an independent analysis of the challenges around enterprise storage. Download the report here (registration required).

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