HP hopes to cut data center costs with new Gen8 servers

HP's successor to G7 servers has new hardware and software technology to reduce maintenance and power costs

Hewlett-Packard on Monday introduced Gen8, its next generation of servers, which integrate new technologies designed to cut overall maintenance and power costs in data centers while maintaining high server uptimes.

Gen8 servers have new hardware and software technology for better performance-per-watt and a reduction in the manual labor involved in updating servers, HP said. The automatic updating and server load-balancing features will help save millions of dollars over a three-year span, HP said.

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The new servers address the need to balance limited space and provide more processing power in data centers, while curbing power costs. The servers include technologies resulting from a two-year, $300 million research program code-named Project Voyager, in which the company tried to find ways to automate data-center tasks and reduce costs. The project resulted in more than 900 patents and a new systems architecture called HP ProActive Insight architecture, the company said.

"We thought about what it would take to fundamentally rearchitect the server architecture" with Project Voyager, said Mark Potter, senior vice president and general manager at HP's Industry Standard Servers and Software group, during a speech at HP's Global Partner conference, which is being held in Las Vegas this week.

"In many ways, Project Voyager is our boldest mission yet," Potter said, where the goal was to build servers that would be able to "take care" of themselves depending on workloads.

The influx of data requires data centers to be more agile, Potter said. That is especially true in the cloud era, as the pressure on data centers will increase as more pictures are uploaded and searches are conducted.

The Project Voyager technologies help better deploy IT resources within a data center to make the most of the space, power and processing capabilities available, Potter said.

HP also has a separate project under way to reshape the server architecture called Project Moonshot, in which the company is tying its servers with Calxeda chips based on ARM processors to bring power and performance to cloud-related workloads.

The Gen8 servers will become generally available in March. HP did not provide full specifications of the servers, but earlier this month the company published initial details that they are multi-socket and based on Intel's upcoming E5 processors, whose announcement is expected soon. Gen8 servers will eventually replace the Proliant G7 family, which was introduced in 2010 and based on x86 processors from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices.

One of the new power-saving technologies is HP's 3-D Sea of Sensors, where overutilized servers are identified based on real-time location, power, workload and temperature data. Based on the data, system administrators can redirect workloads to ensure that servers are operating at the most peak efficiency. The new technology reduces the manual labor involved in monitoring power and cooling, according to HP.

The servers also include services to track power usage per rack and servers. Thermal Discovery Services improve airflow efficiency to cool servers. Over a three-year period, the new technologies can bring annual energy savings of up to $640,000, and save more than 30 days of administration time a year per person in a 10,000-square-foot data center, according to HP.

The servers are optimized for specific workloads such as databases, cloud and virtualization, according to HP. Improved memory, networking bandwidth and storage features mean that database application performance will be boosted by as much as 50 percent compared to the previous generation of servers, the company said.

The new servers support up to 50 percent more internal storage drives per server compared to previous generations. They are also optimized for solid-state drives, which can help improve storage performance by more than seven times compared to previous generations of servers, according to HP. To ensure high data availability and server uptime, HP is providing technology that mirrors data over three drives simultaneously.

The new servers also come with technology with 3Par, which the company acquired in 2010, to bring a flexible storage model with on-demand provisioning and timely system and resource allocation.

System administrators can troubleshoot issues a lot quicker through technologies like Active Health and HP Insight Online, which analyze, monitor and diagnose server issues through data gathered across 1,600 system parameters. An embedded technology called Intelligent Provisioning technology automatically sets up and configures servers, while Smart Update technology pushes out server updates.

Like other server vendors, HP has been releasing rack, blade and tower servers geared for specific tasks and general-purpose usage. HP sells G7 servers configured with Microsoft or VMware software for quick deployment of virtualized workloads. HP also offers CloudSystem servers geared toward public, private or hybrid clouds with multiple service model options. HP also offers servers for database deployments.

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