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HP Ups Its Focus on Desktop Virtualization

At the open of VMworld 2009 today, HP announced new product, management and service solutions designed to bring virtualization to the desktop by hosting as many as 800 virtual desktops on its c7000 BladeSystems blade servers

The HP Virtual Desktop Reference Architecture for VMware allows all of the compute and management work to be done on the server and provides adequate bandwidth for both networking and storage to make a traffic-intense task like server-based desktops possible.

Unlike yesterday's IBM announcement, the HP (NYSE: HPQ) plan does require customers to host the server hardware for the virtual desktops within their own datacenter. With applications running on the server, data must constantly flow between the client and the server. That's a particularly hard when it comes to storage.

"A big contributor to this logjam has been storage," said Jeff Carlat, director of marketing in HP's infrastructure software and blades division. "When you have to attach a lot of storage via SAN, and the cost for Fibre Channel and the complexity for Fibre SAN connectivity has made it prohibitive. You've got to throw a lot of dollars at it to get real performance for your client virtualization," he told InternetNews.com.

So HP has a multi-pronged solution. Intel Xeon 5500-based blades can handle up to 10 virtual desktops per core, and the 5500s have four cores each. In a dual processor blade, that's 80 desktops, or 800 in a fully-populated c7000 BladeSystem chassis. The c7000 takes up half the space in an HP rack mount enclosure, so two chassis can be installed per enclosure.

HP and VMware (NYSE: VMW) are also teaming on a number of integrations to improve network performance. The two companies are leveraging open industry standards such as Virtual Ethernet Port Aggregator (VEPA), which converges virtual switches, network interface cards (NICs), and access points to be managed universally to increase visibility, improve traffic control.

The two are also integrating VMware vCenter with HP Insight Control to give a complete picture of a PC. vCenter monitors the virtual machines but not the physical hardware under it. HP Insight Control monitors the hardware. When combined, administrators will have a single view of a c7000 system, all of its hardware and all of its virtual machines.

It also will allow for automated intervention in the event of a hardware failure. Should a piece of physical hardware start to fail, all of the virtual machines running on it will be moved elsewhere and the admins alerted to the failing hardware.

The HP Virtual Desktop Reference Architecture for VMware is available now from HP, resellers and consultant, including EDS, for $549 per instance.