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Egenera hooks up with HP for server management

PAN Manager now runs on three-fourths of top blades

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For the past several years, virtualized blade server pioneer Egenera has been making a transition from a maker of the BladeFrame blade systems to a software peddler tuning its PAN Manager software to run on other blade boxes. Egenera has finally bagged the big game, now that PAN Manager has been certified on Hewlett-Packard's BladeSystem blade server.

It would have been good for Egenera to have such a deal years ago, but it is better late than never.

The BladeFrame concept treats rack servers like blades (including a midplane for linking to networks and system controllers) and the rack as an analogy to the blade chassis. The Processor Area Network Manager was the real secret sauce of the BladeFrame setup, virtualizing the processors and their memory as well as their I/O and creating a virtualized pool of resources on which to run applications inside of partitions without the use of a hypervisor. (Eventually, Egenera layered hypervisors on top of PAN Manager.)

The BladeFrame was conceived of and commercialized by Vern Brownell, the former CIO at brokerage house Goldman Sachs, who incorporated Egenera in March 2000 and launched the first BladeFrames in October 2001. After an initial bump, the advent of commercial blade servers from IBM, HP, Dell, Sun, and Fujitsu put a damper on Egenera's sales, and by October 2007 the company had decided to break PAN Manager free of the BladeFrames and try to get it into competitive blade servers.

Dell was the first to ink a deal to run PAN Manager on its PowerEdge M series blades, back in March 2008. In April 2009, when Egenera did a Xeon 5500 upgrade to its own BladeFrame machinery, Dell re-upped the PAN Manager distribution agreement (which is still in effect today). The European arm of Fujitsu (back when it was Fujitsu-Siemens) inked a $300m BladeFrame distribution deal back in September 2005, and that OEM deal was renewed in July 2010. In October last year, Fujitsu signed its own reseller agreement with Egenera to allow customers to deploy PAN Manager on Fujitsu's Primergy BX900 blade servers.

With the Dell and Fujitsu partnerships, Peter Manca, Egenera's president and chief executive officer, tells El Reg that PAN Manager could chase about 15 per cent of the total addressable market for x64-based blade servers. But with HP now on board peddling PAN Manager as an option to its own BladeSystem Matrix or the VMware vSphere stack, Egenera is now at least able to chase deals on about 70 per cent of the blade server revenue worldwide.

Manca says that Egenera has tweaked PAN Manager so it can run atop the Virtual Connect Manager APIs inside of HP's BladeSystem chassis. "For HP, which is pushing open platforms, it is another choice for their customers, and they get our high availability and disaster recovery capabilities," says Manca.

Those HA and DR features work on bare-metal as well as virtualized servers. The PAN Manager software virtualizes access to the integrated VirtualConnect FlexFabric switches made by HP for the BladeSystems (just as the Matrix add-ons from HP do), but unlike those Matrix add-ons, PAN Manager is not tied to HP storage and will work with external storage from other vendors.

PAN Manager is available now for HP's BladeSystem blades, and the companies worked together on the port of the tool to HP's blades and are jointly selling the product, according to Manca.

PAN Manager comes in three flavors. The base product does server profiling, provisioning chargeback, I/O virtualization, and fabric management: it costs $2,500 per blade. The PAN Server Portability feature, which automates the failover of workloads when a blade crashes, costs an additional $2,000 per blade. PAN Portability takes failover out across a wide area network, allowing for a remote collection of blades to recover to a remote data center with blades and PAN Manager installed on them. This feature, which costs $3,000 per blade, allows for many-to-one DR setups so each data center doesn't have to have a mirrored setup. Manca says that about 80 per cent of PAN Manager shops buy the server portability feature, and about 45 per cent buy the remote DR feature.

Breaking free from hardware (which Egenera will still sell you if you want it) was a good move for the privately held company, according to Manca. "We had four straight quarters of profitability and 2010 was our best financial year in the history of the company," Manca says, adding that the company tripled the number of customers it has and its software revenues rose by more than 200 per cent. In the first quarter, which just ended, Egenera's revenues were up 250 per cent.

"Add HP to the mix, and I expect our business to grow even faster."

Well, unless IBM or Oracle jump in and buy Egenera, of course. Silicon Graphics could probably use the software, too. ®

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