HP c3000 BladeSystem strikes with precision
Compact and powerful system stands tall above traditional servers and storage devicesFollow @infoworld
My evaluation unit mounted two server blades running Windows Server 2003 plus a third blade with Windows Storage Server 2003. WSS 2003 is Microsoft's unified storage solution that enables provisioning of storage as network shares and iSCSI volumes.
The WSS 2003 blade had two 146GB SAS drives on board, but it also controlled the additional capacity of HP's StorageWorks All-in-One (AiO) SB600c, essentially a storage blade that packs six small-form-factor SAS drives of 146GB each.
The SB600c is essentially a blade-oriented version of HP's StorageWorks AiO 600 storage system, which I looked at in late 2006. Although I didn't have the two systems side by side as when I tested the c3000, I feel comfortable saying that the blade version has nothing to envy in its nonblade sibling: Performance, ease of use, and manageability are comparable -- if not better.
Worth noting is how a storage blade is essentially direct-attached to a server blade, even though there are no cables connecting the two. There is, however, an invisible connection running via the c3000 midplane that connects "partner" devices such as a server and a storage blade.
To create that connection, the two blades simply have to occupy adjacent sockets -- effective and easy. It's also fast: Running Iometer between the AiO server and the storage blade, I measured a transfer rate of around 550MBps, which is consistent with the results measured on, for example, a local drive.
Although I was using the space-demanding dual-parity RAID 6 on the unit, there was more than half a terabyte of storage available for my applications. A similar configuration would gobble half a 3U enclosure in a comparable, traditional storage device, but it occupies only a half-size blade socket on the c3000.
Of course, a small-form-factor drive, capacity-wise, can’t compete with a large 3.5 SATA drives. Customers with substantial storage requirements should consider connecting external storage units to the blade system using one of the supported protocols: The c3000 can easily connect to outside enclosures using iSCSI, FC, or InfiniBand.
Using the LTO3 tape blade mounted on my evaluation units was equally easy and cable free. Similar to the AiO storage blade, the tape blade partners with adjacent servers. I only had to start the HP backup application, Data Protector Express, from one of my servers and the tape began rolling with my data.
Internal Ethernet connectivity is another service that the c3000 chassis handles sans cables. In fact, every server on my system had two data NICs paired for performance and resiliency, plus a third NIC for ILO (integrated lights out) control -- yet nary a physical cable was needed to connect each machine to my GbE switch blade. The systems can mount three additional switches to create resilient connections to two distinct networks, which should be adequate for most installations.
The c3000 can also mount Virtual Connect switches, which isolate networks and storage devices from changes to the server’s host bus adapters. (I didn’t have the VC units installed on my test system.) Notably, HP released additional software in November to extend that flexibility across multiple chassis.