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HP blade chassis is dense and intense

Tom Henderson | Oct. 14, 2014
If you're looking for the ultimate in computational density, consider the HP C7000 Platinum Blade Server Chassis.

There is connectivity between both applications and systems management applications such as Microsoft's SystemCenter, but these were not tested.

To summarize, the default package can be used, but HP recommended OneView, and we concur. That HP doesn't include it with a substantial purchase of blades frustrates us. Any data center deploying many chassis can't live without it.

Blades and FlexFabric

The twin BL 660 Gen8 blades that we were sent had 32 cores on four Xeon CPUs. We've seen this combination before and it's fast and solid. Across the chassis with eight of these installed, 256 cores are possible. If a rack supports four full chassis, that's 1,024 cores per 42U rack, yielding huge density. Old timers will remember when there was one 32bit CPU per tower server.

The connectivity options for FlexFabric are numerous and the fabric is controlled via the configurations set by Virtual Connection Manager or OneView. The HP FlexFabric module we used replaces internal switches in former HP blade chassis. It supports 16  10G/20GB downlinks to the chassis midplane bus, two 20GB cross connect links, four 40GB uplinks, eight 10GB uplinks, plus a link to the Onboard Administrator module (the chassis firmware app).

Each blade can have logical network interface card (NIC) connections depending on the blade type, typically two NIC logical connections for a half-height and three for a full-height blade. These attach to the mezzanine plane, and it's here that IP traffic can be separated internally from iSCSI or FCoIP disk traffic, or in another design alternative, one tenant's traffic from another, or perhaps a Content Development Network (CDN) from the Hadoopers.

Amusingly, the extreme data rates of the FlexFabric infrastructure also mean cable length concerns — at 40GBps proximity becomes an issue when establishing boundaries between chassis — occur certainly with copper cables but even with fiber.

The density also means that the FlexFabric options chosen become/replace traditional hardware core routers and switches that once performed the tasks among what would have been the huge stack of discrete servers, or aisles of servers in racks and its network switching demarc boundaries.

FlexFabric's options and construction mandates inter-disciplinary imaginative construction and another reason why OneView trumps Virtual Connection Manager for fabric control, as OneView integrates these at the mezzanine/midplane level more understandably.

We appreciated the multiple views of OneView fabric tracking, and how it relates each element of the infrastructure to each other. It's not a finished product, as it has difficulty showing sophisticated logical and protocol relationships in and among the objects, and this would help systems engineers understand flows, and network engineers understand the hardware and aggregation relativity more simply.

Whether we wanted it or not, we felt as though we should get a degree from HP after going through the exercise of understanding the relationships that we were constructing.


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