Hewlett-Packard is taking a step away from traditional server design with the new Proliant SL4500 server, which mixes processing, networking, and storage units to optimize performance of applications like OpenStack and Hadoop.
The Proliant SL4500 links processors with as many as 60 hard drives in a 4.3U rack chassis. The server is more dense and cost-effective than industry-standard servers when running applications in distributed computing environments that link storage, networking and processing units, said Daniel Bounds, director of product management at Hewlett-Packard.
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The new Proliant server mixes features from the HP's Proliant Gen8 industry-standard servers and Smart Array storage offerings. The server is part of HP's Converged Infrastructure offerings, where software and hardware are tightly coupled in pre-configured servers for cloud, virtualization, databases and other applications.
Storage needs are growing as companies deal with increasing amounts of data, Bounds said. The SL4500 server provides the necessary throughput demanded by software like OpenStack and Hadoop, which deal with large data sets and are massively scalable, Bounds said.
An alternative to the SL4500 would be general-purpose servers attached to separate storage boxes, which could prove to be more expensive, Bounds said.
The new server occupies just three racks when compared to seven racks for a comparable general-purpose server, according to tests conducted by HP. The new server draws 61 percent less power and uses 63 percent fewer cables compared to general-purpose servers, Bounds said.
The SL4500 could address traditional enterprise applications such as databases and analytics, but "that's a different market," Bounds said. Applications such as in-memory databases usually are optimized for different server configurations.
"Servers are not one size fits all," Bounds said. The company offers AppSystems servers and appliances for traditional database, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and analytics applications.
The SL4500 works with offerings from Cloudera, which is a Hadoop software vendor, and MongoDB, an open-source database system for distributed computing environments.
The server can be configured with up to three computing nodes, with each node containing two x86 server chip sockets. A one-node configuration provides access to 60 full-size hard drives, a two-node system supports 50 hard drives and three nodes supports 45 drives. Solid-state drives (SSDs), which are increasingly being adopted for caching in servers, can also be used in conjunction with hard drives.
The server runs on x86 chips like Intel's Xeon and Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron processors. The initial server storage capacity will be 180TB with 3TB hard drives, and will extend to 240TB in February next year with 4TB hard drives.
The hardware can be modified to some extent, Bounds said. HP wanted to provide customers with some configuration flexibility compared to highly integrated servers.
"The industry as a whole has moved toward dematerializing individual components," Bounds said.
The server has taken many power, performance and management features from the Proliant Gen8 servers, but also "smart analytics" features derived from the Smart Array products, Bounds said. The features are designed to optimize performance without overtaxing storage, and also balance throughput while recovering failed hard drives.
The server is now available worldwide and priced starting at US$7,643 for a single-node configuration.