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HP: Everything will be on blades

By launching a new blade system intended to cut costs and boost efficiency, HP is challenging IBM in the data centre

With a new blade format and new power and heat saving techniques, Hewlett-Packard has thrown down a challenge to IBM and aims to be "number one on the data centre".

At its European launch in London on Wednesday, HP set out its new architecture which it says was three years in the making. The architecture includes virtualization support and is also designed to support non-stop computing and storage, as HP aims to make blades ubiquitous.

 The strategy "can save customers millions of dollars as they build out their data centers," the company says.

The new server is the HP BladeSystem c-Class that uses a larger chassis, 10U rather than 9U and accommodates up to 16 of HP’s new blades based on Intel dual-core processors.

According to Rick Becker, vice-president and general manager for HP BladeSystem and the man behind the strategy, the choice of format was deliberate. "With this format we can get everthing we need inside the box," he said.

"Everything" includes a brand new cooling system which uses up to 10 variable speed fans equipped with sensors so that the system uses only just enough power to keep the BladeSystem at optimum temperature. Each system now had an LED display for problem solving including variable indicators for diagnostics, The power suppliers also have their own sensors so that only enough power as needed is drawn.

The new system is also modular so that users can start with ProLiant and Integrity servers and HP StorageWorks storage blades and then add other services and systems, including third-party products to expand the data centers, as they wish.

HP says that the new designs and configuration can reduce costs all round with an "average enterprise data center" reducing  system acquisition cost by 41 percent, data center facilities cost by up to 60 percent and initial system setup time costs by up to 96 percent.

Becker see limitless possibilities in blades. "Everything will be on blades," he said. "But I don’t mean that our customers will have to buy blades for everything, but everything will be on blades for those customers who want that option."

This will include storage and Non-Stop servers, Becker said. "We have storage on blades and we will be adding to our storage range," he told ZDNet UK. "Non-stop servers are blades are not announced products but that is our intention."

In making the announcement on Wednesday, Becker and other HP executives took the unusual step of directly attacking IBM. "Look at what we are announcing today — the innovation — this leapfrogs IBM," said Iain Stephen, HP’s vice-president for HP in Europe.

The new blade architecture focused on three areas: virtualisation, power and cooling, and system management.

HP Virtual Connect Architecture means an IT administrator only has to wire a system once, the company claims. They can then manage and reconfigure the system, and change power and cooling settings, on the fly via virtualised Ethernet and Fibre Channel connections. Inside the box is the "industry’s fastest midplane" with five terabits per second (Tbps) of aggregate throughput.

The c-Class with StorageWorks Storage Area Networks (SANs) also integrates the server-to-storage interface, and the blade system now has four gigabits per second (4Gbps) Fibre Channel SAN switches.

By using "the industry's first redundant, embedded" 4Gb/s Fibre Channel HBA the company claims it can reduce the cost of SAN connections by more than 40 percent.

The HP Active Cool Fan cuts server airflow by 30 percent and energy consumption by 50 percent compared to regular fans, HP said.

The new blade servers will be available next month when HP will also be setting prices.