HP Gen8 Proliant Servers

The HP Proliant servers never cease to amaze me, on each generation they release. Many moons ago, the Proliant’s were just like other servers. People chose them, because of their stability and support, but, they didn’t really impress me. They had SCSI arrays, like everyone else. Advanced memory and faster bus speeds like other servers were common. To me, the Proliant’s were only competing in doing what the “other guys”, were doing, just better.

Fast forward to today. The Proliant Generation 8 servers are nothing less than phenomenal. Now, a small disclaimer here. I’m not a “Server Guy”, in the sense that I don’t live and breathe IOPS or sweat L2 Cache. I’ve had my fair share of servers in my 12 years of IT, from IBM Netfinity/X-Series to Dell PowerEdge and HP Proliants. However, I do not spend my days reading datasheets and bulletins on the different servers from vendors.

HP has recently announced the shipping of their Generation 8 Proliant servers, with 150 innovations and 900 patents, after reviewing 100,000+ customer feedback surveys. Some of these enhancements are ground-breaking, while others are the “Why didn’t anyone think of that before?”-type.

Architecture

First and foremost, the architecture of the base Processor and I/O should be listed. However, most of these enhancements are from Intel’s new E5 chip, and other servers will take advantage of those same enhancements. It should be noted, that HP has taken those new “features”, and made them better (such as faster memory access and better power efficiencies). Overall, creating a 6x performance increase from the last generation!

See my post in the related assets below this post, on the Intel E5 enhancements.

Hard Drives

On my list of “Why didn’t anyone do that before” list, is the new hard drive ejection lights and activity indicators. Operators and Technicians can now feel confident when replacing hard drives, without removing the wrong ones. The “Do Not Eject” safety light will tell you whether you can remove or not.

The indicators will also tell you within an instant, whether:

  • It’s Not Configured
  • Activity
  • Location Backlight
  • Failed
  • Predictive Failed
  • Rebuilding Stage 1
  • Rebuilding Stage 2
  • Configured

Increased HDD capacity count

Also, dealing with the hard drives, they have resized the hard drive carrier to allow for a 50% greater capacity count in servers (up to 25 drives in a 2-U chassis). However, because of this, the Gen8 drives will not fit in previous generation servers. This is not unexpected, and the same thing happened with the larger Gen3 drives moving to Gen4, if you remember. Sometimes, technology makes a jump preventing backwards compatibility.

Management

The most sexy enhancements are the management systems (I know, I’m a geek). iLO4 (or now, just iLO moving forward), Smart Update Manager, and Insight Control make management of these systems EVEN EASIER!

3-second video on boot

Also in the “Why didn’t anyone do this before” category, is the removal of beep codes and status lights! Gone are the days in searching for documentation in a hot, loud datacenter, looking for beep-codes to determine what is wrong. “The screen has been black for 2 minutes…. is it doing anything?”, or, “Is it THAT server, or THAT server that beeped? Reboot it again, I’ll listen over here”. Uggghhh. The solution? Utilize the iLO ASIC chip and send video within 3 seconds! Tell the person what the problem is on the screen. Brilliant! What a concept!

Smart Update Manager

The Smart Update Manager is a standalone system (and can be integrated with Systems Insight Manager), that can deploy firmware updates and service packs for your server. According to HP’s statistics, this will require 93% less downtime in applying updates and a 69% decrease in operator time installing updates. Smart Update Manager (SUM) can also revert to older versions, should there be a problem. Reverting to an older version IS a manual process though.

Faster Provisioning

iLO4 now has a 4GB flash drive stored on the card. This allows for the latest in firmware, drivers, and provisioning files to be locally stored and versioned. Used to using the SmartStart CD to install a new server? Not anymore. It’s been moved to the iLO to allow for faster install times without downloading or locating the latest SmartStart CD. You can think of it like “SmartStart in Hardware”.

Location Discovery Services

If you are using HP’s latest “I”-series racks, you can equip them with a location strip which tells iLO which U-location in the rack it is located. No more excel spreadsheets or Visio diagrams to lookup.

For those of us who cannot use HP racks because of a co-lo or other requirements. I asked if there was a way we can manually put that data in iLO. They know iLO stores it, but they do not know where, and could not tell me if we can even enter the data manually. That would be important for me.

Power Discovery

If you are using HP’s intelligent PDU’s, you can get control of power per outlet. So? Big deal. Everyone does that. But HP’s PDU’s also talk to the server’s power supplies (Gen8 only) to determine if it truly is redundant (i.e. all power supplies being in the same PDU is not good practice). It can also self-document the servers and power usage and send it to Insight Control for reporting.

Insight Control

iLO now stores more data than it ever has before, including warranty information, serial number, and full detailed logs of all systems in the server for up to 1 year. The payoff? a 66% faster time to resolution because all your data is in Insight Control. Another benefit is a 95% first time fix rate. This is because you can give HP Support the log file, and using proprietary log parsers, can quickly identify the cause of the problem, without asking you to gather the information for them.

By default, the auto-submission of this log file is disabled in the event of a failure or alarm. However, you can enable it, to allow the system to “Call Home” when a problem arises. Because the warranty and serial is included, HP has all the information they need to open a ticket and identify the problem.

Insight Control is a feature license that must be purchased seperately for iLO activation.

Conclusion

I truly feel that HP has jumped over the competition in features by identifying the needs from the customers, understanding what they really need, and leaped over the current competitors in features, ease-of-use, and pro-actively identifying problems. With Insight Control, you truly get back control over your server infrastructure.

Sometimes, your system operators may not have the skill level that you do, so it’s a secure feeling to have that HP has made it easier for them to replace hard drives or open a hardware ticket without you being there.

Good move, HP. My only regret? That I cannot afford to replace all my pre-Gen8 servers.

MORE INFORMATION:  http://h17007.www1.hp.com/gr/en/whatsnew/proliantgen8/explore-architecture.aspx

 

 

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