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HP's Vision: Virtual Resource Pools In Its Converged Infrastructure

The vision thing is "in" among IT vendors. Recently, HP made a big splash with its Converged Infrastructure announcements just a day after Cisco, EMC and VMware launched their Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) coalition. Meanwhile, IBM's Smarter Planet through Dynamic Infrastructure pervades radio and TV, as well as the online and print media. Is this flood of visions a good thing? Optimism is warranted, but some skepticism is justifiable since saying is easy but doing is hard, especially over an extended period of time.

However, the plentitude of visions suggests that the IT industry is at one of its periodic inflection points. Harnessing and aligning those winds of change for the maximum benefits not only of individual companies and vendors, but for the world economy, which needs all the drivers of innovation that it can get. If vendors can really deliver on their promises, so much vision will be a very good thing.

HP said that one of the key constituents of its Converged Infrastructure will be what it calls Virtual Resource Pools, which will enable the end-to-end virtualization of all IT hardware infrastructure resources, i.e., compute, memory, storage and network resources. That, in turn, converts the IT infrastructure into an adaptable infrastructure instead of a rigid, fixed architecture where isolated severs, storage and networks could not be swiftly reconfigured to meet changing business conditions.
A simple analogy (although simplified) may help. Consider flexibility in terms of thixotropy, the property that is exhibited by certain gels that become liquid when a shear force is applied and then revert to a gel when the stirring or shaking ends. If coins are suspended in the gel and the gel is shaken, the coins will assume a different position after the shaking is done. Substitute servers, storage and networks for the coins and they can be reconfigured more easily for a useful purpose by simply a little "shaking" using the "gel" of virtualization.
In HP's view, the IT infrastructure needs to be capable of delivering resources on demand by scaling up, down and out. It needs to be self-optimized and intelligent in order to reduce the amount of manual effort required to run it. It needs to have a modular, open design that is easy to integrate and scale so that the maximum utilization and performance can be realized without tedious, time consuming and costly manual intervention. HP believes that achieving those requirements will double the utilization of compute, storage and network capacity, while at the same time halving the amount of support IT and energy use that is commonly required.

Visions are nice, but products are necessary to actually implement the vision. Even though HP's Converged Infrastructure vision has just begun, the company has announced some new features and capabilities to its StorageWorks X9000 Network Storage Systems resulting in the repositioning of three HP9000 family products:

  • X9320 Network Storage System: a scale-out, highly available file-serving appliance designed for either performance-centric workloads (in 21TB SAS chunks) or capacity-centric workloads (in 48TB chunks).
  • X9720 Network Storage System: the latest incarnation of HP's extreme storage product family (scaling capacity in 82 TB capacity blocks gets one to extreme storage very quickly); this product has a highly dense architecture with over 12 TB per rack unit (U) of 1.75" high.
  • X9300 Network Storage Gateway: a gateway for SAN environments that can be used with HP StorageWorks MSA, EVA, P4000, or third party arrays.

Now since all three of these products are both technologically and physically distinct, and serve different market needs, the issue becomes how to recognize a family resemblance. The answer is that the software stack is identical across the X9000 series and is built upon the Ibrix file-serving capability, such as global namespace, which HP acquired by purchasing the well-regarded Ibrix earlier this year.

But HP made a couple of other announcements, as well:
-HP StorageWorks SAN Virtualization Services Platform (SVSP) v3.0: The company claims that it can improve storage utilization by 300% by pooling heterogeneous disk arrays and enabling common data services
-HP StorageWorks Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA): this line has long been a mainstay of HP storage, but now the company claims that management costs can be lowered and trapped capacity and performance can be eliminated by building a virtual pool of EVA disk resources

With its new Converged Infrastructure, HP has fully joined the IT vision thing crowd. If that can galvanize HP internally to innovate and produce products and services that enable businesses to better respond to changing business requirements that will be a good thing. Delving down a level, HP has defined Virtual Resource Pools as an integral component to the success of the Converged Infrastructure.

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