RealTime IT News

HP Delivers 'Virtual Connect' For Blades

Delivering on a feature promised when it unveiled its c-Class BladeSystem last summer, HP has officially announced availability of Virtual Connect Ethernet and Fibre Channel modules today.

Together, the two modules can be used to manage server profiles, which can be deployed anywhere within a Virtual Connect domain. The advantage is that servers come up much quicker and easier without the need to coordinate with network administrators in advance.

HP estimates its Virtual Connect modules can reduce total LAN and SAN  connectivity costs by up to 38 percent versus pass-through modules and consolidate cables and costly aggregation switch ports by up to 94 percent.

Once set up, Virtual Connect allows network or other administrators to change servers in just a few minutes. HP  said the Virtual Connect Fibre Channel Module looks like a pass-thru device to the SAN and provides all the key benefits of integrated switching including high performance 4Gb auto-negotiating ports, and compatibility with multiple brands of SAN switch.

"Customers have been asking for easier management choices, but the solutions available have compromises, even with standalone servers," Mark Potter, vice president of blade systems at HP, told internetnews.com. "What should be a quick and easy thing to do [i.e. add or change a server], often takes hours, days and in some cases months. It's a big pain point."

One reason implementing a server change can take so long is that an enterprise data center can require as many as three different groups to be involved - a network and storage administrator as well as someone from the data center. "There is a game in IT called 'chasing the server,' said Potter. "We eliminate that game with the benefit of cable aggregation and meeting the needs of all three teams."

Now shipping, the HP Virtual Connect Ethernet and Fibre Channel modules are priced starting at $5,699 and $9,499 respectively.

John Enck, research vice president at Gartner, said blades have been oversold, but HP's Virtual Connect goes a long way to bringing home the promise of their value. "Virtual Connect is a significant advance for blades because it simplifies management," Enck told internetnews.com.

However, Enck does not agree with HP's "blade everything" campaign. Gartner forecasts blades will be about 20 percent of all servers shipped in 2011, up from the current estimate of ten percent.

"We don't see blades becoming world dominant," said Enck. "They have their advantages, chiefly density. But the IT guys know they have a choice of adding rack servers from Dell, HP, IBM and others. If you go with a blade system from HP or IBM, you're pretty much locked into their environment."

Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff said Virtual Connect is another in a series of feature announcements between HP and IBM which control the majority of the blade market.

"I think the advantage here for HP is that it makes some of the potential advantages of blades real in the data center," Haff told internetnews.com.

"You still have to provision up front and that'll take as long as it always has. But the idea that once you get that set up, you do it once and the server or system administrator can move blades around within the chassis without involving other people, is a nice feature."