Of HP's Virtual Connect

Young Blades

Comment HP announced last month the availability of Virtual Connect, virtualization technologies to simplify the connectivity and management of its BladeSystem c-Class architecture. HP Virtual Connect modules separate server management from LAN and SAN management without introducing another network or disturbing existing network topologies.

Virtual Connect runs Ethernet and Fibre Channel natively and seeks to simplifying network connectivity and common server management tasks across the data center by enabling administrators to wire once and then add, replace, or recover servers on the fly. The company stated that Virtual Connect modules can reduce total LAN and SAN connectivity costs by up to 38 per cent compared with pass-through modules and can consolidate cables and switch ports by up to 94 per cent. The HP Virtual Connect Ethernet module starts at $5,699, while the HP Fibre Channel module starts at $9,499.

HP also announced its first workstation blade for the c-Class blade portfolio, the HP ProLiant xw460c Blade Workstation. Powered by Dual-Core Intel Xeon 5000 series processors, the xw460c seeks to deliver a high-performance workstation experience while minimizing desk-side support issues. The xw460c is targeted at customers in the financial services, public sector, and manufacturing industries. The HP ProLiant xw460c Blade Workstation starts at $4,329.

The HP BladeSystem Solution Builder Program is introducing Blade Connect, an online BladeSystem community for customers, partners, and industry observers to have direct interaction, share knowledge, collaborate on solutions, and set up meetings for further discussion. HP Services also announced the HP Virtualization Assessment Service, which evaluates server environments and recommends changes for improved ROI through IT consolidation and virtualization, as well as the HP Quick Thermal Assessment Service for HP BladeSystem, an analysis of data center space, power, and cooling resource requirements for HP BladeSystem deployments.

From our perspective, there are many positive aspects in this set of announcements. The flexibility and simplicity of Virtual Connect represents a substantial improvement on existing interconnection technologies available for the BladeSystem. While reducing the number of physical interconnections in the back of BladeSystem should be applauded by IT administrators, the impact should be felt beyond simple wiring, by actually improving the whole notion of virtualization and flexibility in the data center.

By removing the existing one-on-one relationship between blades and chassis interconnects, Virtual Connect allows IT server managers to move, replace, upgrade, or generally manage blades without disrupting the network or storage topologies. At the simplest level, this could potentially remove the need to coordinate with storage or network managers whenever a server administrator decides to change out a blade. This can reduce the time and the human resource cost incurred to make a server change. Further, the virtualized approach is consistent with the larger issue of server consolidation and simplification. We believe reducing the physical interdependencies of IT components is a worthy goal for any data center, and Virtual Connect appears to have furthered this notion considerably.

Given the state of IT staffing in most organizations, there are precious few resources available for strategic planning and deployment. Despite the value proposition that blades can offer, sometimes organizations simply cannot spare the resources to undertake what would otherwise be a worthy endeavor. The new server assessment and thermal services should be well received by organizations that may be short on staff, but not short on IT challenges. Being able to illustrate to management the direct ROI possible through blade consolidations as well as the thermal / operations impact on operating budgets is a plus for HP and its partners. For many organizations, having access to this information may be the needed catalyst to persuade management to make the resources available, even for a short term, to affect a data center refresh towards blade solutions.

Last, but certainly not least is the community aspect. Blades represent one of the fastest growing platforms of recent times, and one reason for this is the rich ecosystem of partners that have come together to support the architecture. The HP BladeSystem Solution Builder Program is an obvious driver of this ecosystem; the addition of Blade Connect could help enrich the community further by driving discussion and innovation around the BladeSystem. While HP may not, as yet, have fostered an external ecosystem organizations a la blade.org, the Solution Builder Program is an important component in HP's blade strategy. By encouraging as much community involvement as possible around BladeSystem, HP stands to bolster its competitive position in the marketplace, a strategy that appears to be working.

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