The future of blade servers and how HP will lead the curve

When it come to blade servers and the data centre technologies around them, industry enhancements seem continuous and the offerings from HP are no exception.

This HP whitepaper looks at how HP server blades are set to transform the market, and how the new infrastructure management system HP OneView is preparing to take on all comers.

 The market

The blade server market is steadily expanding as companies move away from traditional rack-mounted servers and look to blades to address their business flexibility and changing technology needs.

For the second quarter of 2014, analyst IDC reported (in August 2014) overall increased blade server sales, with HP holding 42 per cent of the market. Cisco had a 25 per cent share, and IBM saw its share falling to 14 per cent, as other smaller and newer players in the market gained some traction.

“Modular servers represent a distinct segment of growth for vendors in an otherwise mature server market,” says Jed Scaramella, an analyst at IDC. “As the building block for integrated systems blade servers will continue to drive enterprise customers along the evolutionary path toward private clouds."

The next generation

To ramp up its offering further HP recently announced the launch of its HP ProLiant Generation 9 (Gen9) server range, that aims to help customers reduce cost and complexity, accelerate IT service delivery and enable business growth. The servers are optimised for convergence, cloud and evolving software-defined data centre environments.

“The rise of mobile, cloud, social and big data is driving the need for a new approach to the data centre and its processing engine - the server - to enable successful business outcomes,” said Antonio Neri, senior vice president and general manager for servers and networking at HP. “ HP ProLiant Gen9 servers combine the best of traditional IT and cloud environments to enable a truly software-defined enterprise.”

When compared with older Gen6 servers, the Gen9 blades can triple computing capacity and increase efficiency across multiple workloads at a lower total cost of ownership with design optimisation and automation, says HP.

They can also accelerate IT service delivery and increase infrastructure provisioning up to 66 times faster when combined with new HP OneView converged management features.

Designed for the HP BladeSystem, HP ProLiant Generation 8 (Gen8) and Gen7 server range, as well as the Gen9 range, HP OneView offers a single management platform to foster collaboration and communication for IT across the data centre. With HP OneView the most common data centre processes, such as deployment, updating, migrating and troubleshooting, are reduced from hours or days to minutes.

HP OneView

For example, says HP, provisioning hypervisors across 16 servers with traditional tools requires two hours and 50 minutes of administrative time, compared to just 14 minutes with HP OneView. And the process of retiring a virtual local area network (vLAN) requires only four steps and 30 seconds of administrative time with HP OneView, compared to 480 steps and more than two hours with a traditional tool.

The new blades together with HP OneView enable HP to support those organisations going down the software-designed data centre (SDDC) path, which allows IT administrators to easily configure their data centres without having to constantly manually configure their hardware.

Analyst Frost & Sullivan is pretty clear about what HP brings to the SDDC equation. It says, "HP OneView is an integrated management offering designed to manage HP infrastructure across compute, storage and networking today, but is swiftly moving toward multi-cloud management for both physical and virtual environments from multiple vendors through a single user interface."

The wider HP support for developing storage and networking systems in evolving data centres is demonstrated by other HP moves in the marketplace. HP has just updated its storage options for the software-designed data centre to allow yet more companies take advantage of the concept.

The SDDC implementation process has been simplified by HP with its StoreVirtual Virtual Storage Appliance (VSA), which is configured to support the deployment of any physical server or hypervisor-attached external storage. And among other enhancements, the company has released a new 4TB HP StoreOnce VSA licence to reduce backup costs by 86 per cent for small and remote sites.

“As customers move to the software-defined data centre they face gaps with legacy hardware-oriented storage,” says David Scott, senior vice president and general manager for HP Storage. “For increased agility, HP delivers software-defined storage via VSAs that lower cost and optimise service levels through common tools.”

Analyst IDC says of these common tools, "We expect built-in APIs (application programming interfaces), including open source OpenStack support, to enable systems managed by HP OneView to integrate with higher-level cloud provisioning and automation activities as needed, to facilitate the operation of cloud and software-defined data centres."

Richard Fichera, an analyst at Forrester, says, "As IT complexity becomes the limiting factor in many shops, the advantage of a tool that makes it easy for admins to accomplish their tasks cannot be underestimated.

"All in all, HP OneView is possibly the most significant systems management product announcement that I have seen in a long time, and I cannot come up with a good reason why users of HP’s newer servers should not be evaluating it."