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HP BladeSystem c3000

  • Editors' rating
    8.0 Excellent

Pros

  • Attractively priced
  • Uses the same components and management tools as HP's high-end BladeSystem c7000
  • Comes with tools to monitor and manage power consumption
  • Handy LCD panel for system diagnostics

Cons

  • ICM management software could be a big overhead in small office environments
  • Non-HP blade format tape storage devices are tricky to use

Launched in September, the HP BladeSystem c3000, codenamed Shorty, is a blade server solution designed for small and medium-sized businesses, or for larger organisations deploying a few servers to a branch office or remote location. About the only difference between the c3000 and HP's high-end BladeSystem c7000 is that the c3000 has a smaller chassis that holds fewer blades and so costs less. The c7000 takes a maximum of 16 blades, while the c3000 is limited to eight; however, the blades that go inside both enclosures are exactly the same.

Our review system was fitted with three ProLiant Server Blades, each with a different type of processor. One had a dual-core Intel Xeon and 4GB of RAM, and cost £1,594 (ex. VAT); another was fitted with a dual-core AMD Opteron 2210HE and cost £1,144. The third blade was a quad-core system with an Intel Xeon 5345 and 2GB of RAM, priced at £1,414. Each had a front-panel socket and lead for connecting a VGA monitor and two USB devices — normally a keyboard and mouse. Our blades also came with two hot-pluggable 72GB 10,000rpm 2.5in. Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) hard disks, which added £290 to the price of each blade.

An HP BladeSystem c3000 enclosure fitted with HP StorageWorks SB40c storage blades, HP ProLiant BL460c Server Blade and HP StorageWorks Ultrium 448c Tape Blade.

Our lab tests showed little difference in power consumption either of the Intel Xeon-based blades were used, with the entire system drawing around 265W in each case. However, the AMD Opteron blade was much more power-frugal, the system drawing only 193W in this case. These tests were conducted with four fans, two power supply units (PSUs) and the optional Ethernet switch fitted.

The right-hand edge of the front panel houses a DVD drive, and there's a small LCD with menu and navigation buttons on the bottom edge. The LCD assembly tucks away neatly into the chassis when it's not needed. When pulled out, it shows hardware diagnostic information: for example, it reported a cooling fault with our review system and said we could correct it by relocating the fans into the appropriate sockets.

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Our chassis was also fitted with optional HP StorageWorks Ultrium 448 SAS Tape Blade and SB40c storage blade. The SB40c was fitted with six 10,000rpm 146GB SAS disks and a RAID controller, and enabled additional disk storage to be allocated to the various blade servers. The Tape Blade cost £1,019 and enabled the individual blade servers to be easily backed up. The system's diagnostic LCD panel indicated that it's designed to work in conjunction with the SB40c or a similar device.

An entry-level c3000 comes with two power supply units (PSUs) and four fans, which are sufficient for running two blades, and an Enclosure Interlink module, used to connect several c3000 systems so they can be managed using a single IP address. The Enclosure Interlink module also contains the OnBoard Administrator software used to manage the blade chassis hardware. Our review system had six fans, four PSUs and a Gigabit Ethernet module (£975) for connecting server blades to a LAN.

Of course, all this hardware means the c3000 is rather heavy. A sticker on the chassis warned to empty the enclosure of all the components before lifting, and said the overall weight ranges from 54-136kg. Moving a c3000 is certainly a job for two people, perhaps more.

The c3000 can be purchased with HP's Insight Control Management (ICM) software, which handles remote deployment of operating system and application software from a separate PC. Rather than run it on a standalone workstation, ICM can also be run on a blade server.

As well as software deployments, ICM also handles software patching and firmware upgrades, remote management and performance management. ICM was updated in June, adding new options for power and vulnerability management. The power management feature can be used to limit the amount of power a particular server can draw by limiting the maximum CPU speed on each blade, and can show the amount of power that the entire enclosure is using. The idea is to tie the enclosure's power consumption to the datacentre's power supply capacity.

Software deployment and hardware management could also be performed using the Integrated Lights Out (ILO) management chipset built into each ProLiant server. This provides remote access to the servers as soon as they are connected to a network, so software could be installed without using the front panel connector or ICM software. However, those willing to spend the money on ICM and the extra hardware needed to run it would find ICM the best bet for getting the most out of their investment in c3000 hardware.

A typical configuration of a BladeSystem c3000 chassis with four PSUs, six fans, two blade servers and ICM software licenses would cost around £6,000 (ex. VAT).

 

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