Touring Texas with the Bloggers Part 2: Smart Power Distribution, a Little Cloud History and More

This week I attended HP ISS Tech Day at Hewlett-Packard‘s Houston facility along with several other bloggers. In part one we talked a bit about the definition of cloud computing and toured the POD-Works facility for manufacturing private clouds. In part two we’ll look at HP’s technologies for building private clouds, including Intelligent Power Discovery and Virtual Connect. We’ll also take a brief look at HP’s original private cloud offering.

Intelligent Power Discovery

HP cites its expertise in power management as a key advantage to its manufactured data centers that it ships in containers to customers. But even if you don’t want to have HP ship you a pre-built data center, you can take advantage of its Intelligent Power Discovery technology.

Intelligent Power Discovery is the name for the combination of HP’s highly efficient server power supplies, its power distribution units and its power management software. The system is designed to make it easy to add new servers to a data center and automatically adjust power allotment. Using HP’s software you can manage power allocation and find overheating servers. You can use HP’s remote server management console iLO to manage practically all of your power requirements.

Notably, all of this happens automatically. Sensors are built into all the necessary cables to make monitoring and reporting as simple as possible.

BladeSystem Matrix

BladeSystem Matrix is the core of HP’s “converged infrastructure” strategy. It’s a framework that integrates servers, storage, networking and software and can be used as the foundation for building private clouds. Its primary software offering is the Matrix Operating Environment, which includes templates for deploying virtualized servers. HP gives customers the option to choose between Citrix, Microsoft and VMware for virtualization and includes templates for fully configured servers for common products from companies like Oracle, Microsoft and SAP. For example, as part of the demo a Microsoft Exchange server was deployed from a template in just a few clicks.

BladeSystem Matrix was preceded by the HP Utility Data Center (UDC) in 2001, back when cloud computing was still referred to as utility computing. UDC was discontinued in 2004. CNET’s Gordon Haff wrote in 2009 that UDC was ahead of its time, expensive and tied to proprietary HP software. Haff wrote that BladeSystem Matrix is much more rooted open standards and components than UDC was.

Matrix competes with other converged systems such as Cisco‘s Unified Computing System.

Virtual Connect

Virtualizing servers can put an excessive I/O load on the host server since those servers will be handling many more concurrent connections. HP Virtual Connect attempts to solve this problem while simultaneously reducing network infrastructure complexity. This IDC white paper offers the best explanation of Virtual Connect I could find.

Virtual machine environments typically require six to eight physical network cards per server. Virtual Connect creates virtual network cards that look just the same as physical network cards to hypervisors. One physical network card can support four virtual network cards. This doesn’t just reduce the need for additional physical network cards, it also reduces the number of switches and cables required to support all those cards.

Virtual Connect can also provide bandwidth throttling on the fly. Let’s say you have a server that needs more bandwidth than one gigabit. Traditionally, that server would need a 10 gigabit network card, even if it doesn’t actually need 10 gigabits of capacity. With Virtual Connect, you could create multiple virtual network cards using the same physical 10 gigabit network cards and split the bandwidth between them any way you want. For example, you could create four virtual network cards: one network card with five gigabits of bandwidth, two network cards with two gigabits of bandwidth each and one network card with one gigabit of bandwidth.

Virtual Connect competes with other I/O virtualization appliances such as Dell’s FlexAdress.

Conclusion

HP is serious about helping customers build private clouds as simply as possible with the lowest possible total cost of ownership. Whether you want them to build something for you or build it yourself, HP has all the products and services required – from building and shipping entire data centers, to cutting power bills to virtualizing both servers and network infrastructure. HP seems to be the leader in each of the technologies we looked at, but there is plenty of competition. It will be exciting to see how the industrialization of physical infrastructure and virtualization of everything else transforms data centers in the next few years.

Disclosure: HP is a ReadWriteWeb sponsor, and paid for Klint Finley’s travel and accommodations to attend HP ISS Tech day.

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