Like the rest of the IT industry, Hewlett-Packard was apparently expecting Cisco Systems and EMC to announce their Acadia joint venture and Vblock virtualized data center infrastructure on Wednesday.
Hence the timing of a hodge-podge of system announcements that HP is stacking up against the Vblock stacks and whatever integrated systems Oracle and Sun Microsystems might cook up if the European Commission ever allows the Sun acquisition to go through.
HP is taking a two-prong attack today, saying that the automation and management technologies that it originally developed for its x64-based BladeSystem and packaged up as the BladeSystem Matrix and its Matrix Orchestration Environment has been expanded to support Integrity blade servers. That means the Matrix boxes can support HP-UX and OpenVMS operating systems and their workloads and are not just restricted to x64-based ProLiant blades and their Windows and Linux operating systems.
The Integrity blades also support Linux and Windows, of course, as well as the NonStop environment for fault tolerant clusters, and presumably these can also be controlled by the Matrix environment.
El Reg badgered Gary Thome, chief strategist and architect for the BladeSystem line at HP, about bringing HP's rack servers and larger SMP systems into the Matrix fold, as well as extending the VirtualConnect I/O virtualization that has been a key reason why companies have deployed HP blades, to rack and big iron boxes. But thus far, HP is mum on whatever prospects this might hold. Not every customer wants blade servers - they might have more peripheral expansion and local storage needs than blades can deliver - so Matrix most definitely should not be restricted to blades.
It is interesting to note, of course, that the Vblock virtualized data center pods that Cisco and EMC launched yesterday come in both blade and rack versions, using converged server and storage network fabrics. Cisco doesn't sell big iron SMP boxes - at least not yet - but you can rest assured that if Cisco does, there will be a Vblock based on it.
What is perplexing about the announcements from HP today is that the company has introduced even more terminology and product naming conventions. Instead of the old Adaptive Infrastructure initiative from a few years ago, we now have the Converged Infrastructure Architecture, which HP pitches as a "roadmap for CIOs to thrive in unpredictability". (Cisco and EMC are selling three different configurations of virtualized infrastructure with feeds and speeds and prices.)
Instead of the Matrix Operating Environment (which is itself a hodge-podge of stuff), HP is now rolling out something called the Infrastructure Operating Environment, which doesn't appear to be a new product so much as a brand to slap onto HP's Insight Dynamics, Insight Control, and Business Technology Optimization tools. Pity the sales rep trying to explain this stuff, and how it might - or might not - relate to one of HP's five strategic operating system platforms.
If HP has simplified IT, it has made its product line and sales pitch unnecessarily complex. The Matrix launch in April was a step in the right direction, in terms of integrating lots of things and simplifying the sales pitch. People don't buy architectures - they buy products.
Today, HP is announcing the grown-up version of the VirtualConnect virtual I/O for the BladeSystem machines, which it is calling FlexFabric. It is a mix of VirtualConnect switches for blades and ProCurve switches for racks and big SMP boxes, that will allow HP shops to wire their servers once and, through the magic of virtual Ethernet port aggregation (VEPA), allow workloads to move around the network of servers and have their network and storage connections follow them.
The FlexFabric announced today consists of supporting Itanium-based Integrity blade servers with the VirtualConnect switches inside the BladeSystem. It is not clear when the ProCurve switches with VEPA capability will ship, but Cisco and HP have been working on VEPA for a while.
The one element of the Converged Infrastructure umbrella of products that does span all of HP's platforms is something called Virtual Resource Pools, which virtualizes servers, storage, and networking and, as the name suggests, creates a pool of resources from which you carve out infrastructure you need to run specific operating systems and workloads.
As El Reg reports elsewhere, these virtual resource pools make use of three different storage platforms that HP can virtualize, including the StorageWorksX9000 network storage family that HP got by virtue of its acquisition of IBRIX, offering up to 16 petabytes of total capacity at a cost that goes as low as $1.50 per GB, according to HP.
HP is also adding support for Microsoft's Hyper-V server hypervisor to the StorageWorks EVA cluster extensions software, which can back-end the virtual resource pools. (This EVA software already supports VMware's ESX Server and Citrix Systems' XenServer hypervisors.) The pools also make use of the pooling and thin provisioning capabilities of the StorageWorks SAN Virtualization Services Platform v3.0 software for the EVA arrays. On the server side, all of HP's five strategic platforms - HP-UX, Linux, Windows, OpenVMS, and NonStop - and be pooled running on ProLiant or Integrity servers.
Doug Oathout, vice president of green IT at HP, says that you can add non-HP gear to a pool. "It will be better if you use all HP stuff," says Oathout, "but other things will work".
Tossed into the Converged Infrastructure Architecture is another capability HP is calling the Data Center Smart Grid, what Thome calls a "4D view" of the data center, including the IT gear and the facilities that wrap around it. This smart grid is a mix of HP hardware, software and services, including a wireless sensor array that HP created to gather telemetry information on the data center and the IT gear, that allows IT managers to see power usage and thermal activity in the data center over time.
The key tool that provides this 4D view of the data center, called the Environmental Edge, costs $10 per square foot of data center and $350 per rack of IT gear. The Insight Control systems management software has been tweaked to allow for automatic power reallocation for servers during brownout conditions. The Insight Control Data Center Power Control plug-in costs $549.
HP also announced today that it has added more templates to the Matrix system, which allows for a single mouse click to install and deploy preconfigured stacks of software on the bladed infrastructure. Today, HP is rolling out Matrix templates for Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, SharePoint Server 2007, SQL Server 2008. Oracle's Database 11g, Real Application Clusters, and PeopleSoft software also get templates, and so does SAP's NetWeaver middleware.
HP says that in early 2010 it will add more templates, including software from Citrix Systems, F5 Networks, McAfee, MicroStrategy, Novell, Red Hat, SAS, Siemens PLM Software, SunGard, Symantec, TIBCO, and VMware. HP also said that it was extending its BladeSystem solution builder program to allow its 5,000 software partners to tweak and certify their code to work with HP's Converged Infrastructure Architecture. Which, you will recall, is not a product but a collection of products and strategies.
In a related announcement, HP says that the Neoview data warehouse appliance that came out in March 2007 running atop the NonStop fault tolerant rack servers has now been superseded the Neoview Advantage, a NonStop setup that runs on Integrity blade servers and uses StorageWorks arrays. HP has not provided more feeds and speeds of this Neoview Advantage.
Thome says that HP made the switch in platforms for Neoview Advantage to get the product down to a lower price point, presumably to better compete with the Oracle/Sun Exadata V2 and IBM Smart Analytic System clusters.
Bootnote: HP originally gave El Reg the impression that HP had ported the Neoview NonStop software to HP-UX when this story originally ran. That is not the case. Neoview Advatnage uses the same NonStop operating system and database as regular NonStop clusters and the prior Neoview appliances. ®