Q&A: HP exec talks up features in new BladeSystem line
The blades include technology from HP's NonStop systems, says Scott Stallard
By Patrick Thibodeau, Computerworld | Computerworld UK | Published: 09:00, 19 June 2006
Scott Stallard, senior vice president and general manager of HP's enterprise storage and servers group, speaks after the launch of the company's new BladeSystem c-Class hardware line.
Q: Do you see the new BladeSystem as a management hub for other systems?
A: The management paradigm is really built around our System Insight Manager, which is a common discovery engine and GUI [graphical user interface] for any of our server platforms, whether it's an Integrity platform built on Itanium, a ProLiant platform, a blade platform, [or] our storage platform. The System Insight Manager has some optional plug-ins -- as an example, our ProLiant Essentials and Storage Essentials, which is essentially the AppIQ acquisition we did earlier in the year around storage resource management. And all of these management counsels are unified on a common architecture and they plug right into OpenView [HP's system management platform].
We think of the software interface and OpenView's on-ramp, whichever consoles you put that in locally or remotely, that would be the centre of the management environment for a data centre.
Q: What will HP be telling buyers of its rack-mounted servers? Are you going to be saying that the Blade System line is your best option?
A: Most customers know what they want, versus us steering them in any particular way. If you're a small-to-medium-size-business customer and you don't even have a rack, you know you need a pedestal [system], and that's why we are still selling them.
If customers have a more modest data centre, they are still going to buy a rack. Where we see blades coming into play is for customers like ourselves -- we're going through this big [data centre] consolidation. We're tired of 30 percent utilised stuff sitting around everywhere with too many operations people -- we're just going to take it all and put it in this [blade server] footprint.
The other place you see [blades] is when companies go to build out, as an example, remote replicated sites, [where] you just need an infrastructure in a box and would like to manage it remotely.
Q: What storage management capabilities have you added?
A: The big breakthrough here goes to the Virtual Connect [architecture] capability. If you stand behind a rack of 1U or 2U ProLiants and their associated storage elements, you will see a sea of Fibre Channel cables. And if you actually wanted to say, "Wait a minute, I would like to have these servers talk to that storage instead of this other one," you would have to do a work order with your data centre, come in, unplug those and move those around. Virtual Connect allows you to go in and hook those storage elements once to this infrastructure and never touch those wires again. As you add storage, compute elements or as you want to put a different application or workload on any one of those elements, the system administrator, even remotely, can make that mapping different. It's an abstraction layer, a virtualisation layer that allows you to create that association that is dynamic rather than static.
Q: You said you're using technologies from HP's NonStop fault-tolerant systems in the BladeSystem line. Which ones?
A: We brought over some of the interconnect technology that is part of Virtual Connect [a virtualised wiring architecture built into BladeSystem]. We also took some of the technologies in hot-plug interfaces. In the NonStop environment, you can never take your system down to accommodate [changes in devices].
Q: Do you plan to put the NonStop systems in a blade server form factor?
A: It's going to take a few years, but our plan is to run NonStop -- 100 percent-availability-type systems -- on these blades that are specially made but still in the c-Class chassis and that have either dual- or tri-modular redundant capabilities. It completely changes the economics equation for NonStop computing. Things that used to be only the domain of banks or stock exchanges -- those things will not be one-off proprietary systems but instead will be environments of these industry-standard blocks that we deploy dynamically.