HP BladeSystem c3000 review

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Blade servers have traditionally been aimed at enterprises looking to consolidate datacentre systems and reduce their utility bills, but their comparatively high costs have always made them unsuited to SMBs. HP aims to redress the balance, starting with the new BladeSystem c3000, codenamed Shorty.

HP BladeSystem c3000 review

The c3000 is the first SMB blade server to market and is essentially a smaller version of HP’s BladeSystem c-Class, of which you can see an exclusive review in our sister title IT Pro (www.itpro.co.uk). The c-Class impressed us enough to win an IT Pro Editor’s Choice award, and the c3000 delivers the same classy build quality and high level of features as its bigger brother. At 6U high, the c3000 can accept four full-height or eight half-height blades, and you can choose from all those available for the c7000 chassis. The c3000 runs on single-phase power and the chassis can accept up to six compact hot-plug power supplies. It uses the same cooling modules as the c7000 chassis, which are rather nifty as they’re based on jet engine design principles. A look down the end of a fan module confirms this, as the metal fan is shaped like a turbine. It’s also worth noting that these cost less than £100 to replace.

Below the blade slots is HP’s onboard administrator module, which incorporates the Insight Display – a smart pop-out operator panel and LCD screen that can be used for configuration, fault analysis and checking on general system health. A chat mode allows text-based conversations to be conducted between a remote manager and local support staff. There’s no redundancy here as, although a spare slot is provided alongside, HP doesn’t currently offer a standby module. With three interconnect bays available, however, HP offers a good level of connection options, and you can pick and choose from passthrough blades, Cisco copper and fibre gigabit switchblades, and Brocade and Cisco FC SAN switches. HP has also recently launched a range of 10GbE and 4Gb/sec fibre-channel virtual connect modules.

You have a good choice of server blades for the c3000, and you can pick and choose from AMD- and Intel-based systems. For the former, the review system came with a BL460c half-height server blade supporting dual- and quad-core Xeons and a BL465c blade, which supports a pair of Series 2000 Opterons. Remote management is on the cards, too, as HP’s blades have an embedded iLO 2 chip onboard.

The AiO SB600c storage blade is a new addition, and this solution comprises a BL460c server blade running Windows Storage Server 2003 R2 partnered with an SB40c disk blade. The latter supports six hot-swap SAS and SATA drives, and uses a Smart Array P400 controller with a battery backup cache. Operationally, this package is identical to HP’s AiO600 appliance (web ID: 100205), delivering its storage as iSCSI targets or NAS for simple file sharing. Another option is the Ultrium 488c Tape Blade, sporting a SAS LTO-2 tape drive. It links up with the chassis backplane, making the drive available to the server blade in the slot below, and comes with a single server edition of HP’s Data Protector Express backup software.

HP has done a reasonable job of reducing noise levels and, with all six fans installed, the c3000 wasn’t much louder than the Supermicro dual-Xeon pedestal server sitting next to it. With a full complement of blades, it will be noisier but no worse than eight standard rack servers. The c3000 is easy to install: the Onboard Administrator browser interface provides wizards to help with installation and an array of graphics showing the condition of all components. It supplies a system-status readout showing colour-coded icons for errors and faults, along with details on chassis power consumption and available power. For more in-depth management, you can use HP’s optional Insight Control Data Center Edition, which includes Systems Insight Manager. These provide enhanced browser-based remote management and monitoring, and can remotely access server blades with an Insight agent installed.

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