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HP mates blades with VMware vSphere

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VMworld It's the VMworld virtualization extravaganza this week, and that means everyone wants to show that they are best buddies with VMware and enthusiastically supporting its virty and cloudy tools. And so it is that Hewlett-Packard is trying to change the subject about its own software aspirations and PC business spinoff and wants to talk about putting the vSphere 5.0 stack on its VirtualSystem preconfigured virtualized servers.

Just in case you can't keep the HP product names straight, Blade System is the name of the company's blade chassis and related x64-based server blades. Blade System Matrix was a special bundle of blade servers and deployment tools created by HP in response to Cisco Systems' entry into the blade server market more than two years ago, while CloudStart, launched in August 2010, is a private cloud packaging of HP blades and tools with a cloud control freak called Cloud Service Automation, as a possible add-on.

CloudStart is sold by HP Technology Services (which was formerly not part of HP's Enterprise Server, Storage and Networking group but which now is) and was certified to run VMware's ESXi and Microsoft's Hyper-V server virtualization hypervisors and used HP's own EVA arrays for storage for the blades.

Back in January of this year, HP's ESSN Group, which seemed to be often working at cross purposes to the services group, rolled out its own cloudy infrastructure based on BladeSystem blades called CloudSystem. This stack includes Cloud Service Automation Suite, which has some control freakery licensed from Adaptive Computing as well as the Matrix goodies HP has created. The CloudSystem also uses HP's 3Par disk arrays instead of its EVA arrays.

If customers want to build a stack of virtualized servers and don't yet want to go all the way to CloudStart or CloudSystem cloudy infrastructure, HP lets them back off a notch to something it calls VirtualSystem. HP previewed this VirtualSystem setup back in June and has now certified it to run VMware's latest ESXi 5.0 hypervisor and its related vSphere 5.0 tools for managing virtual machines.

The VirtualSystem stacks include pretuned hardware – servers, storage, and networking – as well as management tools from both HP and VMware and licenses for the VMware hypervisor. The VirtualSystem is built at HP's server factory in Houston, Texas, and ships pre-integrated at the rack level. HP says that it can ship it to you and have it up and running, doing useful work, in a matter of days.

The VirtualSystem for vSphere 5.0 stack has all of the storage APIs in the vSphere stack hooked into the Lefthand Networks storage arrays from HP, and in some cases HP is running its Lefthand SAN software on ProLiant blades inside a virtual machine if customers want to do it that way. (This is similar to VMware's own Virtual Storage Array, launched back in July.) HP has also cooked up its own variant of VMotion for Storage, which allows for the files that comprise a virtual machine to be teleported around the storage to be more closely located to the physical servers where the VMs are running.

This VMotion for Storage feature that is enabled in the VirtualSystem running the vSphere 5.0 stack can operate over metro distances and can work on Lefthand virtual SANs separated over those distances. If you want the full-tilt-boogie CloudSystem with the Cloud Service Automation Suite, HP offers an upgrade path from the VirtualSystem.

The VirtualSystem server virtualization stacks are intended for customers setting up their own pools of virtualized servers, and they come in three sizes. The VS1 entry configuration has eight of HP's two-socket DL380 G7 servers with a total 96 cores running at 3.46GHz, 1.54TB of of main memory, and 2.34TB of total local disk capacity (that's 96GB of memory and two 146GB disks per physical machine).

To this HP is adding four Lefthand Networks P4500 arrays with a total of 57.6TB of storage and its homegrown switches with a total of 96 Gigabit Ethernet and 48 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports to link it all together. This configuration is designed to support up to 750 virtual machines and includes licenses to VMware's vSphere 5.0 Enterprise Plus package. This bundle costs $167,300 including three years of support. If you already have VMware licenses, you can apply them to this VS1 stack to lower the price.

The VirtualSystem VS2 configuration for vSphere 5.0 moves to a bladed server and bladed Lefthand P4800 SAN arrays. The VS2 setup has a dozen BL460c G7 two-socket Xeon blade servers and two BladeSystem c7000 blade server chassis. Each blade has a dozen cores running at 3.06GHz and 192GB of main memory (expandable to 384GB), two 146GB disks, and links out to the network through four VirtualConnect Flex-10 switches (two per chassis). Four SAS switches (two per chassis) link out to the blades that make up the P4800 SAN storage blades, which have a total of 84TB of capacity.

The chassis has room to add another 16 servers, and the VirtualConnect switches implement 48 Gigabit and 48 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports. There is a total of 240Gb/sec of aggregate I/O bandwidth in the VirtualSystem VS2 box. In its base configuration, HP says it can support up to 1,125 VMs, but with the full complement of 28 server blades it can support around 2,500 VMs.

The largest VirtualSystem for vSphere 5.0 setup is the VS3 box, which is designed to support up to 6,000 VMs. This monster has four BladeSystem c7000 chassis, a total of 64 of HP's ProLiant BL460c G7 servers (that's 768 cores at 3.06GHz and 6TB of total memory). Instead of Lefthand SAN storage, HP is swapping in 3Par F series SAN arrays with 163.2TB of capacity. Each chassis has tow of the VirtualConnect FlexFabric supporting a total of 56 Gigabit, 64 10GE, and 80 8Gb/sec SAN ports.

Pricing for the VirtualSystem VS2 and VS3 configurations was not available at press time. ®

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