Blade server review: HP BladeSystem c7000

HP's c7000 blade system is rich in features, options, and performance, but some of the management tools need attention

One look at the HP BladeSystem c7000 blade chassis and you understand why HP sells a lot of blades. The unit is aesthetically pleasing, extremely solid, and well appointed, with an LCD panel for chassis monitoring and control, eight half-width I/O slots in the back, six 2,400-watt power supplies, and 10 fans. As with the Dell, all of this is tightly power controlled, as the chassis can dynamically turn power supplies on and off to best meet the electrical load, while reducing energy consumption during lighter loads.

HP's c7000 is a strong blade platform with plenty of options, bells, and whistles. It has high density in 16 blades per chassis; solid management tools, including multichassis management from the embedded management console; and a full range of available blades, along with storage and tape blade options. It's lacking a bit in some smaller management features (such as remote share mounting and chassis-wide BIOS and firmware upgrades) as compared to the other solutions, but overall, it squarely hits the mark. On pricing, it falls into the middle of the pack.

Chassis and blades hardware
The HP c7000 came with nine BL460c compute blades, each running two 2.93GHz Intel X5670 Westmere-EP CPUs and 96GB of Samsung low-voltage RAM. In spec, these blades are essentially identical to the IBM and Dell blades we tested, with one important difference: While the Dell and IBM blades had dual embedded 1G NICs with a dual 10G mezzanine card, the HP blades had dual embedded 10G NICs with a dual 1G mezzanine card. It's clear that HP sees 10G as the rule now, not the exception.

The c7000 also leverages HP's Virtual Connect architecture, which represents a 10G interface as four independent Ethernet interfaces to the blade. These virtual interfaces can be tuned within the Virtual Connect module for specific tasks, such as allocating more bandwidth and priority to iSCSI traffic rather than normal traffic. The configuration of Virtual Connect is somewhat arcane, dispensing with traditional Ethernet switch configurations in favor of GUI port assignments and server profiles. If you want to dive in and quickly configure 802.1q trunking or bonding, you'll have to dig to get there. In fact, the configuration of these modules was opaque even to the HP techs.

In addition to the compute blades, HP included two SAS storage blades in the test chassis. Unique to HP, storage blades house six 2.5-inch SAS disks or SATA SSD drives and function as NAS, iSCSI, or Fibre Channel arrays to any or all of the blades in the chassis. Interestingly, these blades can run Windows Storage Server for generic file serving and iSCSI tasks, or they can run a supported OpenSolaris build that provides Fibre Channel targets. HP also offers tape drives in a blade form factor. With these storage options, a single c-class chassis can provide just about every feature required for that remote office in a single, easily managed 10U box.

Like IBM, HP offers a virtualization blade in the BL490c. This is a blade designed to run virtualization hypervisors, providing for more RAM and doing away with local 2.5-inch disk in favor of SSDs. For those looking to deploy a blade chassis for virtualization, that's a very attractive option.

Hung off the Fiber-Channel I/O module on the rear was an HP MSA 2324 array running 24 2.5-inch 15K SAS drives. The MSA was used to house some virtual machines, but not in the actual testing in favor of the internal storage blades.

Management tools
HP's embedded Onboard Administrator offers detailed information on all chassis components from stem to stern. Where Dell couldn't show CPU temps, HP could show you exact temperatures of every chassis or blade component. OA is also nicely laid out, if not as attractively as the Dell CMC.

Test Center Scorecard
  20% 20% 20% 20% 10% 10%  
HP BladeSystem c7000 9 9 8 9 8 9


Very good

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