Server blades certainly aren't what they used to be. For the past couple of years, they tended to be thin and lean, but there now appears to be a trend toward more heavy-duty blades in the server marketplace. Where traditionally 1P and 2P blades were the norm, most vendors now offer dual-core versions. More recently, however, quad-core blades have been released.
HP (Palo Alto, Calif.), took things a step further when it recently unveiled a 4P server featuring the quad-core Intel Xeon 7300 processor. Known as the BL680c, it is currently HP's highest-end x86 blade in its c-class BladeSystem portfolio.
"Where HP's lower-end and half-high blades target infrastructure applications, the Intel-based BL680 blade is targeted toward higher-end workloads and consolidation initiatives," said Jed Scaramella, an analyst at IDC (Framingham, Mass.) "At four sockets and quad-core capability, the BL680 is well-suited for business processing applications, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and database workloads."
No other top-tier vendor offers a 4P quad-core Intel-based server blade. But it probably won't be long before you see them in gear from the likes of IBM (Armonk, N.Y.) or Dell (Round Rock, Texas). But for now, HP is ahead of the game, first out of the gate with this class of product.
"As our first quad-core 4P BladeSystem server, the HP ProLiant BL680c G5 delivers both no-compromise performance and expansion to handle the most demanding enterprise-class applications," said Steve Gillaspy, group manager for HP BladeSystem product marketing.
The BL680's performance specs are impressive: up to four quad-core Xeon 7300 sequence processors; up to 64GB fully buffered DDR2 memory via 16 PC2-5300 FB DIMM slots; and an embedded HP Smart Array P400i storage controller with optional battery-backed Write Cache. In terms of expansion, the BL680 offers: up to two hot-plug Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) or Serial ATA (SATA) hard drives; four embedded Gigabit Ethernet (1GbE) network adapters two of which are multifunction 1GbE with TCP/IP offload engine (TOE) for Microsoft Windows and iSCSI boot for Linux; three mezzanine expansion slots to simultaneously support a variety of I/O mezzanine cards, including additional 1GbE, 10GbE, 4X DDR (20Gb) InfiniBand, and 4Gb Fibre Channel.
"Due to the BL680 G5's quad-core processors, 64GB memory footprint and other expansion capabilities, it is ideal for high-performance and multi-tiered applications," said Gillaspy.
Gillaspy specified high performance computing (HPC) uses for the BL680, including electronic design automation (EDA), petrochemical, life sciences and material sciences, as well as multi-tiered SAP, PeopleSoft, Siebel, Oracle and JD Edwards environments. In addition, he touted the BL680 for server consolidation, large databases, ERP, customer relationship management (CRM), business integration applications, and performance-sensitive network infrastructure services including HP Server Based Computing with Microsoft Windows Terminal Services and Citrix Presentation Server.The starting price for these blades is $9,669. That buys you one HP ProLiant BL680c G5
server blade with two quad-core Xeon processors (1.60GHz/2x2M 80W), 8 GB of fully buffered DIMM PC2-5300 4X2GB memory, an embedded Smart Array P400i/256MB cache SAS Array Controller, four embedded 1GbE network adapters, integrated Lights-Out 2 (iLO2) Standard Blade Edition for ease of management, two hot-plug SAS or SATA hard drives bays (no actual drives), three mezzanine expansion slots and a three years parts and on-site labor, next business day warranty. Most of the cost of upgrade is in the processor specs. For example, $12,569 replaces the two processors above with more powerful quad-core Xeon Processors E7340 (2.40GHz/2x4M 80W).
On the hard drive side, the blade has room for up to two small form factor (SFF 2.5 inch) SAS or SATA drives locally. The SAS drives are available in 36G, 72G and 146G models. Speeds are 10K and 15K. For SATA, only 60G and 120G are available, running at speeds of 5.4K
In keeping with its heavy-duty characteristics, the BL680 can cope with a range of operating systems. Microsoft Windows 2000 and 2003, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server VMWare ESX and Solaris 10 are all supported.
Built for Performance
HP is betting heavily on the Intel 7300 processor series. In addition to this blade, it has released the ProLiant DL580 G5, a 4P server targeted at virtualization and data center deployments. The goal is to provide enough processor performance and memory capacity within the DL580 to be able to manage more with fewer staff members.
Similarly, the BL680c G5 is built for performance. As a part of the HP BladeSystem portfolio, it was designed with virtualization, energy-efficiency, ease of deployment and ease of management in mind. To further meet virtualization and power-efficiency requirements, for example, the blade includes management software tools, such as HP Insight Power Manager and the ProLiant Essentials Virtual Machine Management Pack (VMM).
Insight Power Manager helps cap power at specific wattages. By harnessing this feature, IT managers can increase the number of servers in racks or blade chassis while lowering overall costs. VMM, on the other hand, provides central management and control of physical servers and virtual machines. This eliminates the need for separate VMM consoles.
HP's performance boasts are backed up by recent benchmarks. For example, in a two-tier SAP Sales and Distribution (SD) Standard Application Benchmark, the BL680c G5 blade with four processors (16 cores/16 threads) supported 3,500 SAP SD Benchmark users at 1.97 seconds average dialog response time. At the same time, it achieved a score of 17,550 SAPS, 351,000 fully processed order line items per hour and 1,053,000 dialog steps per hour. The average database request time was 37ms/22ms.
"The BL680 G5 server is designed to keep pace with enterprise-tough computing demands today and tomorrow," said Gillaspy.
The ProLiant BL680c G5 Close Up
|Name||HP ProLiant BL680c G5 Blade Server||
|Dimensions||Height: 14.24 in (36.63 cm)
Depth: 20.06 in (50.9 cm)
Width: 2.03 in (5.14 cm)
|Processor Details||4P quad-core Xeon 7300 series|
|Hard Drives||Up to 2 SFF hot-plug SAS or SATA drives (36G to 146G drives available)|
|Operating Systems||Microsoft Windows 2000 and 2003, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, VMWare ESX and Solaris 10|
|Configuration Options||$9,669 list price includes 2 quad-core Xeon 1.6 GHz processors, 8GB memory, no hard drives
$12,569.00 includes 2 Xeon quad-core 2.4 GHz processors