Review: HP c3000 Enclosure and BL490c Blade

Computerworld server review for mid-size organisation virtualisation

The HP c3000 Enclosure and BL490c Blade was reviewed as part of the Computerworld server review for mid-size organisation virtualisation.

Test configuration RRP: $26,593 (single 16 port LAN switch only)

The c3000 enclosure is a large and heavy beast available in two form factors, a 6U rack unit or, as tested, a similarly-sized tower complete with lockable wheels. The wheels are a useful addition; a kitted out c3000 can weigh 54-36kg depending on configuration! There is no doubt the enclosure has been built to last with robust construction and components that can be removed and replaced with ease. HP’s target market for this product ranges from medium sized businesses upwards, and it is conceivable that some medium sized businesses would rely on only a single populated c3000 unit for their server needs. The enclosure certainly has the options to cover such needs with a capacity of four full sized blades or eight half blades like the BL490c supplied. There are also storage blades options, SAN and NAS, which can occupy the blade slots.

The rear of the enclosure is very busy and includes six redundant, hot swap power supplies; six large enclosure cooling fans with foam noise attenuation; and the I/O. Ours also included 32 gigabit ports; 32 4Gb fibre channel ports and dedicated LAN ports for iLO2. The test configuration, however, did not include the fibre channel ports and the LAN ports were reduced to 16.

We can’t vouch for the noise levels of a fully loaded c3000 enclosure but the unit shipped to the test lab was surprisingly quiet during operation. Even on boot up, the fans were far quieter than our own servers, which are significantly less powerful. Given it could well be your only (or at least a significant portion of your) IT infrastructure, fault tolerance is critical and while the unit can be configured with redundant power, network, storage and blades, it is also resilient to heat and does not require a dedicated, cooled server room.

Management is particularly well-covered. An onboard administrator displays items such as start up process, health and settings. When we fired the unit up we forgot to connect the iLO2 LAN, resulting in a configuration warning on the LCD panel. After drilling down it informed us of the source of the problem.

More detailed administration can also be carried out over a web interface that includes viewing the machine’s media as virtual media for the iLO2-managed device you are connected to, viewing power settings, administering security accessibility, and configuring network and SNMP settings. There are also blade configuration wizards for things such as setting up RAID arrays on the blades.

The BL490c blade has a relatively small form factor and you can install up to eight units within the c3000. Each BL490c can be configured with two Intel 5500 series processors (ours shipped with two X5570 2.93GHz quad core CPUs) and up to 18 DDR3 Registered DIMMs supporting a maximum of 192GB (we tested with 20GB although the system did ship with 60GB). To ensure high availability, the ECC memory can be configured in mirrored and lock-step modes. The blade also has two drive bays but these are dedicated SATA SSD bays and the SSD’s form factor is about two thirds of the height of a thin 2.5 inch notebook harddrive. A single 32GB drive was provided with the blade. It was adequate for single VM session tests, but we substituted a 160GB notebook drive for the multiple VM session CPU tests with negligible effect on the outcome. A pair of 10 gigabit Ethernet adaptors and a dual port fibre channel (FC) card are embedded on the blade. The network adaptors can be teamed for load balancing.

The BL490c blade’s X5570 are the highest performance CPUs we tested, with a clock of 2.93GHz and the BL490c posted the highest performance in the CPU benchmarks. The blade was only configured with a single 32GB SSD drive and HP were unable to source a second drive in time for the disk performance tests. There was therefore not enough storage space to carry out multiple VM drive performance testing. In a single VM the disk throughput was nothing special although the average latency was a very quick 0.14 milliseconds.

Verdict The HP c3000 stands out from the other servers because it is a proverbial Swiss Army Knife. Almost all the IT infrastructure, servers and SAN of a medium sized business could reside in the one small box and, unlike some server options, there is certainly not going to be any network bottlenecks given the excellent LAN and Fibre Channel connectivity of the c3000. Flexibility comes at a price, however, and even in a relatively simple configuration, as tested, the c3000 and BL490C was the most expensive server bundle tested.

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Tags HP c3000 EnclosureserversBL490c Blade

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