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HP fortifies VirtualSystem arsenal

'vBlock killers' add Hyper-V, HP-UX

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HP is expanding its line of preconfigured, virtualization-ready VirtualSystem machines and offering financing and design and implementation services for the more fully fluffed up CloudSystems – which are VirtualSystems gussied up with cloudy management software and self-service portals.

The VirtualSystems take some of the concepts of the BladeSystem Matrix automated blade machines that were launched nearly three years – coincidentally, on the day that Oracle announced it was buying Sun Microsystems – and apply them to both rack and blade servers.

The VirtualSystems, which include servers, storage, and networking all pre-integrated at the HP factory, are backed off a notch from the CloudSystems, which include Cloud Service Automation Suite, which has some control freakery licensed from Adaptive Computing as well as the management and self-service goodies HP originally created for the BladeSystem Matrix boxes. The CloudSystems also use HP's 3PAR disk arrays by default, while some of the smaller VirtualSystems use HP's Lefthand Networks arrays instead. The VirtualSystem configurations come from HP all ready to support a set number of virtual machines on a particular hypervisor.

Back in August, HP launched two VirtualSystem machines tuned up for VMware's new ESXi 5.0 hypervisor and wrap-around vSphere 5.0 add-ons that activate features in that hypervisor. This 5.0 server virtualization stack was announced back in July.

The ESXi variants of the VirtualSystems came in three sizes – VS1, VS2, and VS3 – and supported 750, 2,500, and 6,000 VMs when fully configured, respectively. (We provided all the feeds and speeds of these three ESXi-based VirtualSystems in our original coverage).

This time around, HP is rolling out VirtualSystems tuned for Microsoft's Hyper-V R2 hypervisor – and is letting customers sneak an ESXi hypervisor onto the machines if they really need to.

For now, there are only two VirtualSystem configurations for Hyper-V setups, and they're again called the VS1 and VS2 – technically, the machines are called VirtualSystem for Microsoft, so you can keep them straight from the VirtualSystem for VMware.

The VirtualSystem VS1 setup for Hyper-V includes two ProLiant DL360 G7s, each with two Xeon X5690 six-core processors running at 3.47GHz. They come equipped with 96GB of memory, two 146GB disks, and two 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports. This base VS1 setup also comes with 14.4TB of iSCSI SAN storage implemented in HP's Lefthand P4500 arrays and a 48 port 10GE switch. If you scale this up to eight servers and four P4500 arrays, you can hit that 750 VM limit. You're talking about 185 VMs or so on this initial machine, which costs $175,000.

The VirtualSystem for Microsoft VS2 configuration seems to be a little light on the main memory compared to the VMware systems announced in August, but are similarly based on HP's BladeSystem blade servers instead of ProLiant rack servers. The base configuration comes with one BladeSystem c6000 enclosure and four BL460c G7 two-socket servers using the Xeon six-core X5667 processor running at 3.06GHz.

Each blade has 48GB of main memory, two 146GB disks, and two VirtualConnect Flex10 networking modules in the c7000 blade enclosure. There are also two SASA switches to link out to the Lefthand P4800 array that has 42TB of capacity. Those Flex10 switches provide 48 Gigabit and 48 10GE ports; two of the 10GE ports per blade are used to link the blades to the P4800 arrays.

This initial VS2 configuration will not support the full 2,500 VMs, of course. It takes around 28 blades to do that. This initial setup, which costs $425,000, will support around 535 VMs, if you do the math. Well, it'll support them even if you don't do the math, but you get my meaning.

'vBlock killers'

"These systems are vBlock killers," says Jeff Carlat, director of marketing for the Industry Standard Servers division at HP, referring to the virtual server infrastructure stacks put together on the Unified Computing System blade servers from Cisco Systems, with VMware hypervisors and EMC storage.

Carlat claims that the VirtualSystem for Microsoft machines cost one half what the vBlocks cost, VM for VM. The vBlock machines debuted in November 2009 and came in three sizes: vBlock 0, vBlock 1, and vBlock 2.

The vBlock 0 setups scaled from 300 to 800 VMs and cost on the order of several hundred thousand dollars, while the vBlock 1 setup scaled from 800 to 3,000 VMs with prices ranging from $1m to $2.8m. The vBlock 2 setup scales from 3,000 to 6,000 VMs, and the VCE alliance that sells the vBlock machines did not divulge pricing on this machine.

Neither HP nor VCE allow you to configure their respective VirtualSystem or vBlock machines online, so it is not possible to verify Carlat's claims on HP's pricing being better for VM support.

In 2012, HP will roll out a VirtualSystem for Microsoft VS3 configuration that will scale up to 6,000 VMs, matching the top-end vBlock iron.

All of the Hyper-V variants of the Virtual System come preconfigured with HP's Insight Control for Microsoft's System Center, which allows admins working within the Windows environment to see all of the alerts coming in from the HP iron, as well as supporting patching and provisioning from within the Systems Center console.

HP-UX and nPars and vPars get to play now, too

These Microsoft machines are not the only VirtualSystems that HP punted on Tuesday. There is now a version of the VirtualSystem based on the Superdome 2 extended blade servers, which were announced in April 2010 with eight-socket and 16-socket configurations, and which were extended with a 32-socket box in August of this year.

The Superdome 2 machines are based on Intel's quad-core "Tukwila" Itanium 9300 and run HP's HP-UX Unix variant; prior Superdome machines supported Linux and Windows as well, but the latest ones do not.

HP did not announce a VirtualSystem based on the low-end, two-socket Integrity BL860c i2 blade servers, of which you can put one, two, or four in a single system image to run HP's HP-UX, OpenVMS, and NonStop operating systems. But it seems likely that HP eventually will put out a smaller VirtualSystem for HP-UX customers.

In the meantime, the high-end HP-UX shops are getting the first preconfigured virtual Superdomes. The starting configuration is a 16-socket Superdome 2 SD2-16s machine configured with 1.73GHz Itanium 9350 chips. Main memory on this box scales from 32GB up to 2TB, and it offers 24 internal PCI-Express 2.0 x8 peripheral slots.

This VirtualSystem for Superdome 2 machine is configured with HP-UX 11i v3 and uses the Virtual Server Edition-Operating Environment variant of HP-UX, which is explicitly designed for virtualized server instances. (Other HP-UX variants do not include virtualization, offer extended clustering support, or roll everything into one giant package.) The VSE variant of HP-UX offers nPar hardware partitions, which isolate at the blade level, as well as vPars, which offer containers inside the HP-UX environment.

This Superdome VirtualSystem has four nPars spanning its eight blade servers: a database nPar spanning four blades with 128GB per blade; an application nPar with two blades and 128GB per blade; a test nPar with one blade configured with 96GB, and a development nPar with one blade with 96GB. The application nPar has four vPars to create virtual app servers. The whole shebang is fed by a 3PAR F400 clustered storage array and includes three years' worth of HP critical care tech support.

Carlat says that it will be available in November or December. Pricing has not been set yet.

In addition to rolling out the new VirtualSystems, HP's Technical Services unit – which is now tucked up inside of its Enterprise Servers, Storage, and Networking group where it belongs – is trotting out services to help companies design new data centers or retrofit old ones to take advantage of dense-pack VirtualSystem and CloudSystem hardware. The engagement typically takes six to eight weeks and involves one or two consultants; pricing is not available.

HP says that in the engagements it has had to date, it can get a data center built or retrofitted about 40 per cent faster than was possible before it acquired this expertise, and it lowers facilities costs by about the same amount.

Finally, HP is reminding everyone that the $2bn in financing it made available in June can be applied to CloudSystem virty hardware stacks. HP says that a CloudSystem configuration with eight ProLiant server blades, an EVA array with 5.4TB of storage, and the Matrix Operating Environment costs around $340,000 but can be financed for as low as $9,500 per month. And if you are a service provider, HP is willing to scale the payments so you pay less on the front-end and more on the back-end of the deal so you don't take the hit upfront as you add customers to a machine and eventually use its capacity. ®

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