Server Snapshots: HP BladeSystem c3000

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted Jan 11, 2008


Drew Robb
Dubbed 'Shorty,' there's nothing small about the BladeSystem c3000 enclosure -- aside from its footprint.

In the 1995 movie "Get Shorty," John Travolta plays a heavy that travels to Hollywood to collect a debt and discovers the movie business isn't much different from his current mob job. Similarly, HP has discovered many small businesses and remote offices have needs not unlike those of data centers. They do, however, require a more compact set up. Enter the BladeSystem c3000 enclosure, aka Shorty.

"HP has increased the available market for its BladeSystem architecture by providing a blade storage and server solution to the midsize market with the arrival of the c3000 product," said IDC analyst John Humphreys. "By extending the lower end of the product line, HP aims to meet the requirements for smaller systems and smaller companies."

Shorty is part of HP's c-Class line (the larger enclosure is known as the c7000) and is fully compatible with its bigger sibling. Both support the HP ProLiant, Integrity, and StorageWorks server and storage blades. The HP BladeSystem c3000 enclosure, however, is targeted at smaller technology sites, branch offices and remote locations. As a result, the c3000 doesn't require special power, cooling or staff to implement.

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Instead, HP BladeSystem Solution Blocks facilitate implementations. HP BladeSystem Solution Blocks are built from a documented and tested combination of server blades, storage blades and management software. The HP Web site lists 15 to 20 Solution Blocks developed for the c3000. One example is an eight-node VMware cluster priced between $30,000 and $50,000 per enclosure with eight server blades configured for VMware. Note that this does not include the cost of a shared storage array or the cost of VMware software.

In total, the rack-based c3000 can fit up to eight blades. It plugs into a standard 110- or 220-volt outlet. A tower version of the c3000 is "coming soon." When released, it will take up only two square feet of floor space.

"A c3000 enclosure without server blades and interconnect modules starts at $4,299," said Barry Sinclair, product manager for the HP c3000.

To kit it out with more gear, of course, costs more money. A simple c3000 enclosure with power supplies, fans, Onboard Administrator and DVD drive is priced between $4,299 and $4,999. It can accommodate 2 to 8 server blades, ranging from $2,100 to $5,000 each, depending on processor, memory and hot-plug drive configuration. You must also buy interconnect modules. One to four of these can be purchased, at a price ranging from $1,300 (Ethernet) to $10,000 (Fibre Channel switches) each.

On the storage side, a storage blade is priced around $4 to $8 per GB. Each blade can hold between 200GB and 1.3TB of storage. If a particular side wants to attach external NAS, iSCSI or Fibre Channel SAN storage arrays, which can vary between 1/2TB and hundreds of TB of external storage, add $4 to $8 per GB of storage.

"Depending on the mix of devices selected, a c3000 enclosure may cost between $7,000 and $45,000 for an enclosure with between 1 and 8 server blades, depending on the configuration of the server blades," said Sinclair. "Storage blades and externally connected storage can add to this price, depending on storage capacity and type of storage."

The c3000 enclosure supports all existing HP ProLiant, Integrity (IA-64) and StorageWorks blades. This equates to 4 full-height or 8 half-height blades. ProLiant blades are available with single-, dual- and quad-core processors from Intel and AMD. HP Integrity server blades, on the other hand, are available with Intel Itanium single- and dual-core Itanium processors.

These blades can be configured diskless or hold up to eight direct-attach SAS or SATA drives each. Capacities of 36GB, 72GB, 128GB and 300GB per drive are available. In addition, the storage blades are DAS-, NAS- or iSCSI-shared storage blades, ranging between 200GB to upward of 1.2TB of capacity per storage blade. External storage can be attached to the enclosure, and it offers up to hundreds of TB of storage capacity per enclosure or per SAN domain.

Sinclair said the c3000 reduces the time it takes and the cost of deploying new business applications. This enables enterprises to realize power and cooling savings of up to 30 percent, a 53 percent reduction in SAN connection costs and a drop in cabling costs of up to 94 percent.

"The enclosure consolidates server, storage, network, power and management capabilities in a single box without complex cabling," said Sinclair. "A set-up wizard guides administrators through the installation process, making it ideal for those with limited IT experience."

He added that the Onboard Administrator, the enclosure DVD drive, and the optional local KVM module also contribute to a low learning curve.

In terms of competition, Sinclair said the soon-to-be-available IBM BladeCenter S is the primary candidate. Shorty wins in terms of blades — eight vs. six. It also has more internal storage options than its IBM counterpart — including tape blades. The IBM model has a complete range of external storage options, however.

Big on Virtualization

HP was smart to make its enclosure and blades able to run with all manner of virtualization approaches. The c-Class BladeSystem fully supports virtualization solutions from all major vendors — such as VMware, Microsoft Virtual Server and Citrix/Zen. Blades typically are configured for 6 1Gb/s NICs and 2 4Gb/s Fibre Channel ports per blade.

"We estimate that upwards of 30 percent of all HP BladeSystem blades are used for virtual server deployments," said Sinclair. "In addition, the c3000 and the c7000 support HP's Virtual Connect solutions, which extend virtualization to the Ethernet and Fibre Channel network infrastructure, reducing network costs, facilitating change-ready server and network infrastructure, and reducing server and network management. One midmarket customer, for instance, has four enclosures — two in each of two sites (virtualized) — handling disaster recovery scenarios between sites."

To accommodate such versatility, HP has ensured that Shorty packs a powerful punch. Its compact 6U enclosure accommodates up to 8 multicore, dual-processor half-height blades or 4 full-height blades.

"Populated with 8 dual-socket BL 460c or BL 465c blades running quad-core AMD or Intel processors, a fully packed Shorty enclosure can crank out almost a TeraFlop of processing performance," said Gordon Haff an analyst at illuminata (Nashua, N.H.). "That's at a price of about $45,000 to $50,000."

The HP c3000 Enclosure

Name c3000 The HP c3000 Enclosure (aka  Shorty)
Vendor HP
Platform x86 and Itanium
Dimensions Height: 10.4 inches; Width: 17.5 inches; Depth: 32 inches
Processor Details HP ProLiant server blades are available with single-, dual- and quad-core processors from Intel and AMD. HP Integrity server blades are available with Intel Itanium single- and dual-core Itanium processors.
Hard Drives Server blades can be configured diskless or hold up to 8 SAS or SATA drives each.
Operating Systems Windows, Linux, Unix
Configuration Options A c3000 enclosure (without server blades and interconnect modules and able to handle up to 4 server blades)starts at $4299
Add 2 to 8 server blades that range from between $2,100 and $5,000 each, depending on processor, memory and hot-plug drive configuration
Add 1 to 4 interconnect modules, which range from between $1,300 (Ethernet) to $10,000 (Fibre Channel switches)
Availability Currently available
Warranty 3 years

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