Exclusive review: HP BladeSystem Matrix

HP's state-of-the-art blade server system and array of automation tools haven't squeezed all manual labor out of service provisioning, but they show the automated and adaptive datacenter is within reach

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The fix for this took a few steps, including cleaning out the assigned LUN, reassigning the blade from the maintenance pool back into the ESX pool, deactivating and removing the logical server that was attached to that blade, and restarting the Orchestration job. The whole recovery process took several minutes and required visiting numerous parts of the management suite, but was not a terribly challenging task.

In another instance, I created a few VMs directly through vCenter rather than through Orchestration. The process to bring them back into the fold was trivial; all I had to do was run a discovery process from the Insight Orchestration console.

In most cases, it's hard to force Insight Orchestration to do something that can't be done. The templates and service creation jobs conduct extensive resource verification prior to starting anything, and Orchestration will issue warnings and fail the job if everything isn't where it should be. It's also very nice to see clear and concise error messages, logging, and auditing available right from the console.

[ Take InfoWorld's scrolling tour through service provisioning and management in HP BladeSystem Matrix. ]

What HP has done with the Matrix product is to build a wall with existing bricks, but the inner workings are not entirely hidden from view. This is both good and bad: good because it's necessary to be able to quickly and easily dig under the hood and fix problems, but bad in that there are still relatively mundane manual steps required to fully realize the potential of the solution. I hope that when all the hooks are in place, HP retains the relative openness of the solution to allow experienced admins to turn a few wrenches when necessary.

As with the rest of the HP Insight tools, the Web-based interface is snappy and responsive, but like most Web UIs, it doesn't drive as smoothly as a fat app. The menus and navigation can be Byzantine at times, but that's to be expected for a product this complex.

For the moment, HP’s Matrix solution will find a home in larger infrastructures that are looking to streamline the build processes for their server and application stacks. As with most new and complex technologies, these shops will round off the edges and press HP to improve the overall product. As time passes, the price will hopefully drop, the integration will hopefully get tighter, and suddenly, it will be a reality for smaller shops. Every journey begins with a single step, and HP has clearly taken several. The destination is coming into view.

HP BladeSystem Matrix

Cost $215,758 for one rack, completely built and functional, with 15 BL495c blades, EVA 4400 array with 8 drives; $377,562 for two such enclosures, 31 total blades.
Platforms Supports Microsoft Windows, HP-UX, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Suse Linux Enterprise Server, Oracle Enterprise Linux, and Solaris operating systems and VMware ESX, Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix XenServer, and Integrity VM hypervisors. Supports all half- and full-height HP ProLiant and HP Integrity server blades.
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