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HP blade chassis is dense and intense

Tom Henderson | Oct. 14, 2014
If you're looking for the ultimate in computational density, consider the HP C7000 Platinum Blade Server Chassis.

Blades and the Virtual Connect components together, salted with a bit of memory (256GB) made the price climb into six figures. Admittedly, what we received can also be the administrative core for up to four total chassis, which won't be quite as expensive when the cost is amortized over subsequent chassis and blades. The density can be huge. The chassis fan count — 10 of them — was also huge. This density needs to breathe.

The BL-660s Gen 8s blades came with Intel E5-4650 CPUs, 4CPU x 8-core, total 32 cores, 128GB memory (the minimum, 512G possible), and two drives each. We found we could easily boot from SAN or network resources. HP's VC FlexFabric 20/40 F8 Module was installed into the rear of the C7000 Chassis, along with HP FlexFabric 20Gb 2-port 630FLB Series adapters.

The chassis and components that fill the C7000 are joined together into a mezzanine backplane as mentioned, and blades communicate among each other, or with network communications options installed in the rear of the chassis. The chassis monitors the front and backplanes via both external software that talks to internal chassis firmware, and can be directly controlled through a front-panel color LCD control panel or rear-mounted display.

Provisioning of the chassis components (blades, switches, and their configuration) is done remotely. There are no USB jacks on the front of the chassis and the blades have no jacks. There is one VGA port on the rear, and one USB jack that can mirror the front panel display. We jacked into the back of the chassis with our crash cart, and discovered that the crash cart KVM version of the chassis firmware-driven software doesn't do much more than the front panel display. But you'll need one or the other to set the chassis IP address.

Virtual Connect Manager vs OneView

The C7000 is useless without control software. There are two basic choices. HP's Virtual Connect Manager is included in the cost of the chassis. Also included with all Gen8 servers is HP's integrated LightsOut (iLO) management.

HP's OneView might be a better option. It's a broader management package for Gen8 servers, although it's not inexpensive.

We recommend those deploying the C7000 use OneView rather than Virtual Connect Manager for several reasons: it's archaic and requires studious prerequisite study just to install the software onto highly configured Windows 2008 R2 server, needs 6GB of user memory and therefore is notebook unfriendly, and requires much architectural forethought to deploy into an effective control plane for provisioning and managing the options of the C7000 chassis and its components.

By contrast, OneView 1.1 is a virtual machine delivered as an appliance for VMware or HyperV, installs rapidly, and after a fast tutorial, becomes instantly manageable. It's not inexpensive. The trade-off is in installation hours spent, and manageability. OneView has the ability to discover much infrastructure and when supplied with chassis password components, is able to connect and logically associate components quickly and with surprisingly little fuss.


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