HP unveils new blade platform

HP Wednesday rolled out a BladeSystem platform that it hopes will give it a boost in the fast-growing blade server market by providing customers with a more flexible, easier to manage, energy-efficient system.

The new BladeSystem c-Class brings improved technologies in the areas of virtualization, power and cooling and systems management to blades. With the new system, enterprise customers should see costs of hardware and maintenance drop nearly 50 percent vs. comparable rack-mounted systems over a three-year period, says Ann Livermore, executive vice president of HP's technology solutions group.

"What we've introduced to you today is an adaptive infrastructure in a 17-inch box," Livermore said as she introduced the BladeSystem c-Class to press and analysts during a live Webcast. "Adaptive infrastructure" is HP's term for an automated data center in which network and computing resources are pooled and allocated on the fly according to application demands.

The c-Class combines a number of current HP technologies, including management features from its printers and high availability and virtualization capabilities from its NonStop servers. The new BladeSystem c-Class chassis also includes enhanced networking capabilities, including a new Virtual Connect Architecture, which enables administrators to wire systems once and then shift resources with virtualized Ethernet and Fibre Channel connections.

In the area of power and cooling, the c-Class includes HP Thermal Logic Technologies that enable customers to manage power use of individual blades, chassis and entire racks.

In addition, new HP fans cut air-cooling requirements by 30 percent and energy use by up to 50 percent compared to traditional fans, HP claims.

Because HP is integrating its systems management tools with the BladeSystem infrastructure, customers should see a reduction in administrative headaches, Livermore says. In all, with Insight Control Management a single administrator should be able to manage 200 devices with the new c-Class, HP claims.

Another improvement in systems management is Onboard Administrator, which uses technology from HP's Imaging and Printing Group. Onboard Administrator is a two-inch interactive LCD panel on the front of the chassis that lets administrators monitor, troubleshoot and repair systems.

Since the c-Class replaces HP's p-Class, current blade servers won't fit in the new enclosure. But analysts say the benefits of the new chassis should outweigh any drawbacks of backward incompatibility.

"The lack of back compatibility does make for a little messiness - and work on the part of HP - during the transition, but this is actually a pretty reasonable point to roll out a new chassis if you feel you need one," says Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata. "The blade market is growing rapidly, but the installed base is still relatively small, so making the shift sooner, rather than later, makes sense."

At the same time, HP will continue selling its p-Class BladeSystem through next year and will support those systems through 2012, Livermore says.

The BladeSystem c-Class is expected to be available in July and pricing is to be released at that time.

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