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.”

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