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23Aug/10Off

HP FlexFabric module launched

TechOps Guy: Nate

While they announced it a while back, it seems the HP VirtualConnect FlexFabric Module available for purchase for $18,500 (web price). Pretty impressive technology, Sort of a mix between FCoE and combining a Fibre channel switch and a 10Gbps Flex10 switch into one. The switch has two ports on it that can uplink (apparently) directly fiber channel 2/4/8Gbps. I haven't read too much into it yet but I assume it can uplink directly to a storage array, unlike the previous Fibre Channel Virtual Connect module which had to be connected to a switch first (due to NPIV).

HP Virtual Connect FlexFabric 10Gb/24-port Modules are the simplest, most flexible way to connect virtualized server blades to data or storage networks. VC FlexFabric modules eliminate up to 95% of network sprawl at the server edge with one device that converges traffic inside enclosures and directly connects to external LANs and SANs. Using Flex-10 technology with Fibre Channel over Ethernet and accelerated iSCSI, these modules converge traffic over high speed 10Gb connections to servers with HP FlexFabric Adapters (HP NC551i or HP NC551m Dual Port FlexFabric 10Gb Converged Network Adapters or HP NC553i 10Gb 2-port FlexFabric Converged Network Adapter). Each redundant pair of Virtual Connect FlexFabric modules provide 8 adjustable connections ( six Ethernet and two Fibre Channel, or six Ethernet and 2 iSCSI or eight Ethernet) to dual port10Gb FlexFabric Adapters. VC FlexFabric modules avoid the confusion of traditional and other converged network solutions by eliminating the need for multiple Ethernet and Fibre Channel switches, extension modules, cables and software licenses. Also, Virtual Connect wire-once connection management is built-in enabling server adds, moves and replacement in minutes instead of days or weeks.

[..]

  • 16 x 10Gb Ethernet downlinks to server blade NICs and FlexFabric Adapters
  • Each 10Gb downlink supports up to 3 FlexNICs and 1 FlexHBA or 4 FlexNICs
  • Each FlexHBA can be configured to transport either Fiber Channel over Ethernet/CEE or Accelerated iSCSI protocol.
  • Each FlexNIC and FlexHBA is recognized by the server as a PCI-e physical function device with adjustable speeds from 100Mb to 10Gb in 100Mb increments when connected to a HP NC553i 10Gb 2-port FlexFabric Converged Network Adapter or any Flex-10 NIC and from 1Gb to 10Gb in 100Mb increments when connected to a NC551i Dual Port FlexFabric 10Gb Converged Network Adapter or NC551m Dual Port FlexFabric 10Gb Converged Network Adapter
  • 4 SFP+ external uplink ports configurable as either 10Gb Ethernet or 2/4/8Gb auto-negotiating Fibre Channel connections to external LAN or SAN switches
  • 4 SFP+ external uplink ports configurable as 1/10Gb auto-negotiating Ethernet connected to external LAN switches
  • 8 x 10Gb SR, LR fiber and copper SFP+ uplink ports (4 ports also support 10Gb LRM fiber SFP+)
  • Extended list of direct attach copper cable connections supported
  • 2 x 10Gb shared internal cross connects for redundancy and stacking
  • HBA aggregation on FC configured uplink ports using ANSI T11 standards-based N_Port ID Virtualization (NPIV) technology
  • Allows up to 255 virtual machines running on the same physical server to access separate storage resources
  • Up to 128 VLANs supported per Shared Uplink Set
  • Low latency (1.2 µs Ethernet ports and 1.7 µs Enet/Fibre Channel ports) throughput provides switch-like performance.
  • Line Rate, full-duplex 240Gbps bridging fabric
  • MTU up to 9216 Bytes - Jumbo Frames
  • Configurable up to 8192 MAC addresses and 1000 IGMP groups
  • VLAN Tagging, Pass-Thru and Link Aggregation supported on all uplinks
  • Stack multiple Virtual Connect FlexFabric modules with other VC FlexFabric, VC Flex-10 or VC Ethernet Modules across up to 4 BladeSystem enclosures allowing any server Ethernet port to connect to any Ethernet uplink

Management

  • Pre-configure server I/O configurations prior to server installation for easy deployment
  • Move, add, or change server network connections on the fly without LAN and SAN administrator involvement
  • Supported by Virtual Connect Enterprise Manager (VCEM) v6.2 and higher for centralized connection and workload management for hundreds of Virtual Connect domains. Learn more at: www.hp.com/go/vcem
  • Integrated Virtual Connect Manager included with every module, providing out-of-the-box, secure HTTP and scriptable CLI interfaces for individual Virtual Connect domain configuration and management.
  • Configuration and setup consistent with VC Flex-10 and VC Fibre Channel Modules
  • Monitoring and management via industry standard SNMP v.1 and v.2 Role-based security for network and server administration with LDAP compatibility
  • Port error and Rx/Tx data statistics displayed via CLI
  • Port Mirroring on any uplink provides network troubleshooting support with Network Analyzers
  • IGMP Snooping optimizes network traffic and reduces bandwidth for multicast applications such as streaming applications
  • Recognizes and directs Server-Side VLAN tags
  • Transparent device to the LAN Manager and SAN Manager
  • Provisioned storage resource is associated directly to a specific virtual machine - even if the virtual server is re-allocated within the BladeSystem
  • Server-side NPIV removes storage management constraint of a single physical HBA on a server blade Does not add to SAN switch domains or require traditional SAN management
  • Centralized configuration of boot from iSCSI or Fibre Channel network storage via Virtual Connect Manager GUI and CLI
  • Remotely update Virtual Connect firmware on multiple modules using Virtual Connect Support Utility 1.5.0

Options

  • Virtual Connect Enterprise Manager (VCEM), provides a central console to manage network connections and workload mobility for thousands of servers across the datacenter
  • Optional HP 10Gb SFP+ SR, LR, and LRM modules and 10Gb SFP+ Copper cables in 0.5m, 1m, 3m, 5m, and 7m lengths
  • Optional HP 8 Gb SFP+ and 4 Gb SFP optical transceivers
  • Supports all Ethernet NICs and Converged Network adapters for BladeSystem c-Class server blades: HP NC551i 10Gb FlexFabric Converged Network Adapters, HP NC551m 10Gb FlexFabric Converged Network Adapters, 1/10Gb Server NICs including LOM and Mezzanine card options and the latest 10Gb KR NICs
  • Supports use with other VC modules within the same enclosure (VC Flex-10 Ethernet Module, VC 1/10Gb Ethernet Module, VC 4 and 8 Gb Fibre Channel Modules).

So in effect this allows you to cut down on the number of switches per chassis from four to two, which can save quite a bit. HP had a cool graphic showing the amount of cables that are saved even against Cisco UCS but I can't seem to find it at the moment.

The most recently announced G7 blade servers have the new FlexFabric technology built in(which is also backwards compatible with Flex10).

VCEM seems pretty scalable

Built on the Virtual Connect architecture integrated into every BladeSystem c-Class enclosure, VCEM provides a central console to administer network address assignments, perform group-based configuration management and to rapidly deployment, movement and failover of server connections for 250 Virtual Connect domains (up to 1,000 BladeSystem enclosures and 16,000 blade servers).

With each enclosure consuming roughly 5kW with low voltage memory and power capping, 1,000 enclosures should consume roughly 5 Megawatts? From what I see "experts" say it costs roughly ~$18 million per megawatt for a data center, so one VCEM system can manage a $90 million data center, that's pretty bad ass. I can't think of who would need so many blades..

If I were building a new system today I would probably get this new module, but have to think hard about sticking to regular fibre channel module to allow the technology to bake a bit more for storage.

The module is built based on Qlogic technology.

23Aug/10Off

Solaris reboot

TechOps Guy: Nate

Most everyone saw it coming but I suppose it's more 'official' now, from The Register -

The OpenSolaris board has suspended operations and symbolically handed all responsibly for of the open-variant of Solaris back to database giant Oracle.
[..]
Turns out now, instead of OpenSolaris being coded well ahead of the commercial Solaris, the only open source version of any future Solaris stack will come after the commercial product.

While I don't recall what the license was, I do remember ordering copies of Solaris source code about 8-10 years ago for the company I was at (they were developing apps that ran on among other things Solaris).

Too bad OpenSolaris never really got off the ground, it was pretty close, apparently only a few things were left that were yet to be open sourced, including libc (I think - pretty critical).

While I did not like the userland tools for Solaris(and really hated patch management under Solaris 7 and 8, don't recall 9, and never really used 10), the kernel was very impressive and solid. It would of been nice to have seen a Debian kSolaris distribution along the lines of Debian kFreeBSD.

Filed under: News Comments Off
23Aug/10Off

HP to the rescue

TechOps Guy: Nate

Knock knock.. HP is kicking down your back door 3PAR..

Well that's more like it, HP offered $1.6 Billion to acquire 3PAR this morning topping Dell's offer by 33%. Perhaps the 3cV solution can finally be fully backed by HP. More info from The Register here. And more info on what this could mean to HP and 3PAR products from the same source here.

3PAR's website is having serious issues, this obviously has spawned a ton of interest in the company, I get intermittent blank pages and connection refused messages.

I didn't wake my rep up for this one.

The 3cV solution was announced about three years ago -

Elements of the 3cV solution include:

  • 3PAR InServ® Storage Servers—highly virtualized, tiered-storage arrays built for utility computing. Organizations creating virtualized IT infrastructures for workload consolidation use InServ arrays to reduce the cost of allocated storage capacity, storage administration, and SAN infrastructure.
  • HP BladeSystem c-Class Server Blades—the leading blade server infrastructure on the market for datacenters of all sizes. HP BladeSystem c-Class server blades minimize energy and space requirements and increase administrative productivity through advantages in I/O virtualization, powering and cooling, and manageability.
  • VMware vSphere—the leading virtualization platform for industry-standard servers. VMware vSphere helps customers reduce capital and operating expenses, improve agility, ensure business continuity, strengthen security, and go green.

While I could not find the image that depicts the 3cV solution(not sure how long it's been gone for), here is more info on it for posterity.

The Advantages of 3cV
3cV offers combined benefits that enable customers to manage and scale their server and storage environments simply, allowing them to halve server, storage and operational costs while lowering the environmental impact of the datacenter.

  • Reduces storage and server costs by 50%—The inherently modular architectures of the HP BladeSystem c-Class and the 3PAR InServ Storage Server—coupled with the increased utilization provided by VMware Infrastructure and 3PAR Thin Provisioning—allow 3cV customers to do more with less capital expenditure. As a result, customers are able to reduce overall storage and server costs by 50% or more. High levels of availability and disaster recovery can also be affordably extended to more applications through VMware Infrastructure and 3PAR thin copy technologies.
  • Cuts operational costs by 50% and increases business agility—With 3cV, customers are able to provision and change server and storage resources on demand. By using VMware Infrastructure's capabilities for rapid server provisioning and the dynamic optimization provided by VMware VMotion and Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS), HP Virtual Connect and Insight Control management software, and 3PAR Rapid Provisioning and Dynamic Optimization, customers are able to provision and re-provision physical servers, virtual hosts, and virtual arrays with tailored storage services in a matter of minutes, not days. These same technologies also improve operational simplicity, allowing overall server and storage administrative efficiency to increase by 3x or more.
  • Lowers environmental impact—With 3cV, customers are able to cut floor space and power requirements dramatically. Server floor space is minimized through server consolidation enabled by VMware Infrastructure (up to 70% savings) and HP BladeSystem density (up to 50% savings). Additional server power requirements are cut by 30% or more through the unique virtual power management capabilities of HP Thermal Logic technology. Storage floor space is reduced by the 3PAR InServ Storage Server, which delivers twice the capacity per floor tile as compared to alternatives. In addition, 3PAR thin technologies, Fast RAID 5, and wide striping allow customers to power and cool as much as 75% less disk capacity for a given project without sacrificing performance.
  • Delivers security through virtualization, not dedicated hardware silos—Whereas traditional datacenter architectures force tradeoffs between high resource utilization and the need for secure segregation of application resources for disparate user groups, 3cV resolves these competing needs through advanced virtualization. For instance, just as VMware Infrastructure securely isolates virtual machines on shared severs, 3PAR Virtual Domains provides secure "virtual arrays" for private, autonomous storage provisioning from a single, massively-parallel InServ Storage Server.

Though due to the recent stack wars it's been hard for 3PAR to partner with HP to promote this solution since I'm sure HP would rather push their own full stack. Well hopefully now they can. The best of both worlds technology wise can come together.

More details from 3PAR's VMware products site.

From HP's offer letter -

We propose to increase our offer to acquire all of 3PAR outstanding common stock to $24.00 per share in cash. This offer represents a 33.3% premium to Dell’s offer price and is a “Superior Proposal” as defined in your merger agreement with Dell. HP’s proposal is not subject to any financing contingency. HP’s Board of Directors has approved this proposal, which is not subject to any additional internal approvals. If approved by your Board of Directors, we expect the transaction would close by the end of the calendar year.

In addition to the compelling value offered by our proposal, there are unparalleled strategic benefits to be gained by combining these two organizations. HP is uniquely positioned to capitalize on 3PAR’s next-generation storage technology by utilizing our global reach and superior routes to market to deliver 3PAR’s products to customers around the world. Together, we will accelerate our ability to offer unmatched levels of performance, efficiency and scalability to customers deploying cloud or scale-out environments, helping drive new growth for both companies.
As a Silicon Valley-based company, we share 3PAR’s passion for innovation.
[..]

We understand that you will first need to communicate this proposal and your Board’s determinations to Dell, but we are prepared to execute the merger agreement immediately following your termination of the Dell merger agreement.

Music to my ears.

[tangent -- begin]

My father worked for HP in the early days back when they were even more innovative than they are today, he recalled their first $50M revenue year. He retired from HP in the early 90s after something like 25-30 years.

I attended my freshman year at Palo Alto Senior High school, and one of my classmates/friends (actually I don't think I shared any classes with him now that I think about it) was Ben Hewlett, grandson of one of the founders of HP. Along with a couple other friends Ryan and Jon played a bunch of RPGs (I think the main one was Twilight 2000, something one of my other friends Brian introduced me to in 8th grade).

I remember asking Ben one day why he took Japanese as his second language course when it was significantly more difficult than Spanish(which was the easy route, probably still is?) I don't think I'll ever forget his answer. He said "because my father says it's the business language of the future.."

How times have changed.. Now it seems everyone is busy teaching their children Chinese. I'm happy knowing English, and a touch of bash and perl.

I never managed to keep in touch with my friends from Palo Alto, after one short year there I moved back to Thailand for two more years of high school there.

[tangent -- end]

HP could do some cool stuff with 3PAR, they have much better technology overall, I have no doubt HP has their eyes on their HDS partnership and the possibility of replacing their XP line with 3PAR technology in the future has got to be pretty enticing. HDS hasn't done a whole lot recently, and I read not long ago that regardless what HP says, they don't have much (if any) input into the HDS product line.

The HP USP-V OEM relationship is with Hitachi SSG. The Sun USP-V reseller deal was struck with HDS. Mikkelsen said: "HP became a USP-V OEM in 2004 when the USP-V was already done. HP had no input to the design and, despite what they say, very little input since." HP has been a Hitachi OEM since 1999.

Another interesting tidbit of information from the same article:

It [HDS] cannot explain why it created the USP-V - because it didn't, Hitachi SSG did, in Japan, and its deepest thinking and reasons for doing so are literally lost in translation.

The loss of HP as an OEM customer of HDS, so soon after losing Sun as an OEM customer would be a really serious blow to HDS(one person I know claimed it accounts for ~50% of their business), whom seems to have a difficult time selling stuff in western countries, I've read it's mostly because of their culture. Similarly it seems Fujitsu has issues selling stuff in the U.S. at least, they seem to have some good storage products but not much attention is paid to them outside of Asia(and maybe Europe). Will HDS end up like Fujtisu as a result of HP buying 3PAR? Not right away for sure, but longer term they stand to lose a ton of market share in my opinion.

And with the USP getting a little stale (rumor has it they are near to announcing a technology refresh for it), it would be good timing for HP to get 3PAR, to cash in on the upgrade cycle by getting customers to go with the T class arrays instead of the updated USP whenever possible.

I read on an HP blog earlier in the year an interesting comment -

The 3PAR is drastically less expensive than an XP, but is an active/active concurrent design, can scale up to 8 clustered controllers, highly virtualized, customers can self-install, self-maintain, and requires no professional services. Its on par with the XP in terms of raw performance, but has the ease of use of the EVA. Like the XP, the 3PAR can be carved up into virtual domains so that service providers or multi-tenant arrays can have delegated administration.

I still think 3PAR is worth more, and should stay independent, but given the current situation would much rather have them in the arms of HP than Dell.

Obviously those analysts that said Dell paid too much for 3PAR were wrong, and didn't understand the value of the 3PAR technology. HP does otherwise they wouldn't be offering 33% more cash.

After the collapse of so many of 3PAR's NAS partners over the past couple of years, the possibility of having Ibrix available again for a longer term solution is pretty good. Dell bought Exanet's IP earlier in the year. LSI owns Onstor, HP bought Polyserve and Ibrix. Really just about no "open" NAS players left. Isilon seems to be among the biggest NAS players left but of course their technology is tightly integrated into their disk drive systems, same with Panasas.

Maybe that recent legal investigation into the board at 3PAR had some merit after all.

Dell should take their $billion and shove it in Pillar's(or was it Compellent ? I forgot) face, so the CEO there can make his dream of being a billion dollar storage company come true, if only for a short time.

I'm not a stock holder or anything, I don't buy stocks(or bonds).