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HP Converges The Data Centre With Matrix

Jeffrey Burt is a senior editor for eWEEK and contributor to TechWeekEurope

Hewlett-Packard has laucnhed a platform to combine servers, storage and networks into one resource – and called it the Matrix

Hewlett-Packard has launched its bid to merge servers, network and storage into one manageable platform, in the form of the BladeSystem Matrix.

The Matrix, part of HP’s Adaptive Infrastructure initiative, is a converged software, server, storage and networking platform that automates the delivery of services in the data centre. HP is also shipping the Matrix Orchestration Environment (MOE) a management interface that gives a single place from which to manage everything.

Meanwhile, HP is announcing enhancements to its Virtual Connect networking technology as well as additions to its storage lineup.

The moves are the latest in a space that is seeing major tech vendors quickly releasing initiatives designed to converge server, storage and networking resources – such as VMware’s vSPhere cloud operating system. Vendors including IBM, Dell and Sun, are using software and virtualisation technologies to create more agile and dynamic data centre environments.

In March, Cisco unveiled its Unified Computing System strategy, which combines its strength in networking with new blade servers based on Intel’s new Xeon 5500 (“Nehalem”) processors and partnerships with such vendors as EMC, VMware, NetApp and Intel.

On April 16, in a one-hour Webcast, Cisco officials gave more detail about the initiative, highlighting the embedded management software, industry-standard technologies and new memory capabilities – to rebut criticisms from rivals and to illustrate how the plan will improve data center performance while saving enterprises money.

Two days before, on April 14, Sun Microsystems rolled out its Open Network Systems plan, which also incorporates Intel’s Xeon 5500 chips—also known as Nehalem EP—as well as Sun’s own Solaris operating system, networking and storage technologies and integrated Flash memory capabilities.

Other vendors — from heavyweights such as IBM and Dell to Novell to newcomers such as Schooner Information Technology —a lso are moving in that direction.

To HP officials, BladeSystem Matrix is a key differentiator in what’s becoming a crowded field.

“The data centre is complicated,” sad Jim Ganthier, vice president of marketing of infrastructure software for blades. “There are multiple islands of IT in the data centre. BladeSystem Matrix fundamentally changes the way people look at the data centre. … This new environment is more flexible, dynamic, manageable and cost-effective.”

HP officials said the combination of the BladeSystem Matrix and MOE can save enterprises up to 79 percent in operational costs, offers a four-to-one network equipment consolidation and a 45 percent reduction in server hardware and software costs.

The offering simplifies such tasks as disaster recovery, capacity planning, consolidation and provisioning, they said. IT administrators can dynamically assign resources based on business demands in minutes rather than weeks. After the service requirements are fulfilled, the resources are put back into the pool.

Key to the BladeSystem Matrix is the inclusion of HP’s new Virtual Connect 8Gb Fibre Channel and Flex-10 Ethernet modules. Flex-10 can allocate the bandwidth of a 10Gb Ethernet network across four NIC (network interface card) connections, which reduces the need for additional network equipment.

Virtual Connect comes with several enhancements, including a multi-enclosure stacking feature that can connect four enclosures into one Virtual Connect domain, cutting the number of Ethernet cables to two per rack. In addition, Virtual Connect Enterprise Manager v1.30, which is part of MOE, gives IT administrators a central console for configuration management, rapid assignment and failover of server-to-network connections for up to 200 virtual connect domains.

On the storage side, HP is unveiling some of the fruits of its $360 million acquisition in October of LeftHand Networks, which the company bought to extend its storage virtualisation capabilities. The goal of the new offerings is to enable IT managers to take excess storage capacity from any vendor and create a single pool of shared storage. HP also is offering multiple tiers of storage.

HP’s LeftHand P4000 SAN (storage-area network) solutions enable data replication and automatic balancing of data volumes across all storage resources.

HP also is bundling the P4000 with its StorageWorks SB40c Virtual SAN Appliance software, which offers a highly shared storage offering in a virtualised blade infrastructure. In addition, HP is unveiling the StorageWorks 600 Modular Disk System, which provides direct-attached storage for the HP BladeSystem environment.

HP also is offering Insight Capacity Advisor Virtualization Services, which is designed to help businesses plan and design their virtual environments.