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What if you could run a graphics intensive application, like CAD from Chicago, and you were sitting in Atlanta? What if you could work on a multi-million dollar animated movie feature from the luxury of your home? These and more could be possible with the HP WS460c G6 Workstation Blade.

The HP WS460c G6 Workstation Blade technically isn’t a new product. Inside, it holds similar features to the BL460 G6 blade server. It’s got the same form, uses the same processors, memory, storage and certain mezzanine cards. In fact, the mezzanine card is where the difference really lies. What’s the difference between a “workstation” and a “server”? Two things: Operation System and Graphics Cards. Traditionally workstations use desktop operating systems, and require very intensive graphics adapters with dedicated graphic processor units (GPUs) and dedicated graphics memory. With this in mind, HP designed the WS460c G6 Workstation Blade to both run a desktop O/S and support graphic adapters designed to handle heavy graphic workloads. HP also designed an expansion unit, called the WS460c G6 Graphics Expansion Blade to enable the WS460c to handle the same full-size graphics adapters as found in workstation desktops. Let’s take a quick look at the WS460c Workstation Blade first.

Workstation Details
Processor: Up to two (2) Intel® Xeon® 5500 or 5600 Series processors
Memory:Twelve (12) DIMM slots; up to 192GB
Storage Controller:HP Smart Array P410i Controller (RAID 0/1) with optional 256MB or 512MB Battery-Backed Write Cache (BBWC)
Internal Drive Support: Up to two (2) small form factor (SFF) SAS hot plug hard disk drives
Network Controller: Embedded NC532i Dual Port Flex-10 10GbE Multifunction Server Adapter – note the device driver will only support 1Gbps speed and Flex-10 is not supported at this time. Requires 1Gbps only interconnect switches in enclosure.
Mezzanine Support:Two (2) I/O expansion or graphics adapter mezzanine slots to support:
a graphics adapter mezzanine (NVIDIA Quadro FX 770M, FX880M, FX2800M or FX 3600M) or a dual-port Fibre Channel Mezzanine options for SAN connectivity (Choice of Emulex or QLogic)

Graphic Card Options
Professional 2D & 3D graphics with hardware acceleration via graphics subsystem

  • NVIDIA Quadro FX 770M(256MB) graphics single card kit
  • NVIDIA Quadro FX 770M(256MB) graphics dual-card kit
  • NVIDIA Quadro FX 770M(512MB) graphics single card kit
  • NVIDIA Quadro FX880M (1G) graphics single card kit
  • NVIDIA Quadro FX2800M (1G) graphics single card kit
  • NVIDIA Quadro FX 3600M(512MB) graphics single card kit
  • NVIDIA Quadro FX 5800 (4.0 GB) graphics kit – supported on HP WS460c G6 Graphics Expansion Blade only.
  • NVIDIA Quadro FX 4800 (1.5 GB) graphics kit – supported on HP WS460c G6 Graphics Expansion Blade only.
  • NVIDIA Quadro FX 3800 (1.0 GB) graphics kit – Supported on HP WS460c G6 Graphics Expansion Blade only.

Supported Operating Systems

1. Windows Vista® Business Blade PC Edition with 1 RDL (Remote Desktop License) 32-bit with downgrade to Windows® XP Professional 32-bit SP2 custom installed can be ordered—Windows XP Pro SP2 is the only operating system that can currently be ordered factory-installed.

2. Windows® XP Professional x64 Edition— This OS is obtained from Microsoft, often through the customer’s volume licensing agreement.

3. Windows Vista Business Blade PC Edition, 32-bit version— Recovery media for this OS is included with the blade workstation.

4. Windows Vista Business Blade PC Edition, 64-bit version— Recovery media for this OS can be obtained from HP.

5. Red Hat Enterprise Linux® 4.5 (and later), 64-bit— This OS is acquired by the customer from Red Hat, while HP provides the required Linux drivers.

6. Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.2 (and later), 64-bit— This OS is acquired by the customer from Red Hat, while HP provides the required Linux drivers.

Form Factor
HP ProLiant WS460c G6 and WS460c G6 Graphics Expansion Blade are both half-height server blades that plugs into the HP BladeSystem c3000 and c7000 enclosures. When the Graphics Expansion Blade is used with the WS460c G6 (shown on the right,) the blade takes up two bays, therefore the maximum density per enclosure would be reduced. As a side note, HP does have a 2nd workstation blade, HP ProLiant xw2x220c Blade Workstation which offers two workstation nodes per blade, however it only has a Xeon 5400 processor, so I don’t see it sticking around unless HP does a technology refresh at which time I’ll post an update.

So, at this point, you may be thinking – there’s a workstation blade, which sits in the HP BladeSystem c3000 or c7000 enclosure, but how do you use it? This is where the value of HP comes to light. The HP WS460c G6 Workstation Blade is just a small piece of the overall puzzle. There are a few other components needed to make it a “complete workstation solution.” Let’s take a look at what this overall solution looks like.

In summary, the graphics are compressed at the workstation blade, then sent, over Ethernet, to the client, which then decompresses the graphics signal and displays it on the monitor. Keyboard and mouse movements are captured and sent back over Ethernet to the workstation blade and the cycle repeats. (Click on the image for a larger view.)

As you can see, there are some extra pieces required:

  1. HP Remote Graphics Software (RGS) – this software handles compression / decompression of the graphics between the blade device and the client device. For more on this software, check out this HP whitepaper (Adobe PDF.)
  2. A Client device that can work with the software. While nearly any PC will work, HP recommends the HP gt7725 Thin Client – an HP thin client device with an AMD Turion Dual Core 2.3 GHz processor, 2 GB of memory and 1 GB of flash memory and RGS is factory-installed.

Advantages of Running Workstation Blades
At this point, you may be asking, what’s the purpose of running workstations on blades? Why wouldn’t you just buy desktop workstations? Well, there are a few reasons to use a workstation blade environment.

  • Security – if the workstations are on blades, then the data would reside in the datacenter, where it can be protected from the the risk of security exposures from local drives and USB ports, as well as through system theft or loss.
  • Multi-location flexibility – the design of the workstation blade + client device enables the user to be local or remote. This provides additional unprecedented flexibility of working where you need to be, not where you have to be.
  • Multi-user access – the workstation blades can be dedicated to an individual user, or they can be shared across users. This provides additional flexibility of allowing a single user to have multiple workstations, a feature that is very costly with traditional desktop workstations

Let me know your thoughts of the HP WS460c G6 Workstation Blade. Are you using it, or do you know anyone using it? What recommendations would you offer to HP for future workstation blades?

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Intel officially announced today the Xeon 5600 processor, code named “Westmere.” Cisco, HP and IBM also announced their blade servers that have the new processor. The Intel Xeon 5600 offers:

  • 32nm process technology with 50% more threads and cache
  • Improved energy efficiency with support for 1.35V low power memory

There will be 4 core and 6 core offerings. This processor also provide the option of HyperThreading, so you could have up to 8 threads and 12 threads per processor, or 16 and 24 in a dual CPU system. This will be a huge advantage to applications that like multiple threads, like virtualization. Here’s a look at what each vendor has come out with:

Cisco
Cisco B200 blade serverThe B200 M2 provides Cisco users with the current Xeon 5600 processors. It looks like Cisco will be offering a choice of the following Xeon 5600 processors: Intel Xeon X5670, X5650, E5640, E5620, L5640, or E5506. Because Cisco’s model is a “built-to-order” design, I can’t really provide any part numbers, but knowing what speeds they have should help.

HP
HP is starting off with the Intel Xeon 5600 by bumping their existing G6 models to include the Xeon 5600 processor. The look, feel, and options of the blade servers will remain the same – the only difference will be the new processor. According to HP, “the HP ProLiant G6 platform, based on Intel Xeon 5600 processors, includes the HP ProLiant BL280c, BL2x220c, BL460c and BL490c server blades and HP ProLiant WS460c G6 workstation blade for organizations requiring high density and performance in a compact form factor. The latest HP ProLiant G6 platforms will be available worldwide on March 29.It appears that HP’s waiting until March 29 to provide details on their Westmere blade offerings, so don’t go looking for part numbers or pricing on their website.

IBM
IBM is continuing to stay ahead of the game with details about their product offerings. They’ve refreshed their HS22 and HS22v blade servers:

HS22
7870ECU – Express HS22, 2x Xeon 4C X5560 95W 2.80GHz/1333MHz/8MB L2, 4x2GB, O/Bay 2.5in SAS, SR MR10ie

7870G4U – HS22, Xeon 4C E5640 80W 2.66GHz/1066MHz/12MB, 3x2GB, O/Bay 2.5in SAS

7870GCU – HS22, Xeon 4C E5640 80W 2.66GHz/1066MHz/12MB, 3x2GB, O/Bay 2.5in SAS, Broadcom 10Gb Gen2 2-port

7870H2U -HS22, Xeon 6C X5650 95W 2.66GHz/1333MHz/12MB, 3x2GB, O/Bay 2.5in SAS

7870H4U – HS22, Xeon 6C X5670 95W 2.93GHz/1333MHz/12MB, 3x2GB, O/Bay 2.5in SAS

7870H5U – HS22, Xeon 4C X5667 95W 3.06GHz/1333MHz/12MB, 3x2GB, O/Bay 2.5in SAS

7870HAU – HS22, Xeon 6C X5650 95W 2.66GHz/1333MHz/12MB, 3x2GB, O/Bay 2.5in SAS, Emulex Virtual Fabric Adapter

7870N2U – HS22, Xeon 6C L5640 60W 2.26GHz/1333MHz/12MB, 3x2GB, O/Bay 2.5in SAS

7870EGU – Express HS22, 2x Xeon 4C E5630 80W 2.53GHz/1066MHz/12MB, 6x2GB, O/Bay 2.5in SAS

IBM HS22V Blade ServerHS22V
7871G2U HS22V, Xeon 4C E5620 80W 2.40GHz/1066MHz/12MB, 3x2GB, O/Bay 1.8in SAS

7871G4U HS22V, Xeon 4C E5640 80W 2.66GHz/1066MHz/12MB, 3x2GB, O/Bay 1.8in SAS

7871GDU HS22V, Xeon 4C E5640 80W 2.66GHz/1066MHz/12MB, 3x2GB, O/Bay 1.8in SAS

7871H4U HS22V, Xeon 6C X5670 95W 2.93GHz/1333MHz/12MB, 3x2GB, O/Bay 1.8in SAS

7871H5U HS22V, Xeon 4C X5667 95W 3.06GHz/1333MHz/12MB, 3x2GB, O/Bay 1.8in SAS

7871HAU HS22V, Xeon 6C X5650 95W 2.66GHz/1333MHz/12MB, 3x2GB, O/Bay 1.8in SAS

7871N2U HS22V, Xeon 6C L5640 60W 2.26GHz/1333MHz/12MB, 3x2GB, O/Bay 1.8in SAS

7871EGU Express HS22V, 2x Xeon 4C E5640 80W 2.66GHz/1066MHz/12MB, 6x2GB, O/Bay 1.8in SAS

7871EHU Express HS22V, 2x Xeon 6C X5660 95W 2.80GHz/1333MHz/12MB, 6x4GB, O/Bay 1.8in SAS

I could not find any information on what Dell will be offering, from a blade server perspective, so if you have information (that is not confidential) feel free send it my way.

IBM officially announced today a new addition to their blade server line – the HS22v. Modeled after the HS22 blade server, the HS22v is touted by IBM as a “high density, high performance blade optimized for virtualization.” So what makes it so great for virtualization? Let’s take a look.

Memory
One of the big differences between the HS22v and the HS22 is more memory slots. The HS22v comes with 18 x very low profile (VLP) DDR3 memory DIMMs for a maximum of 144GB RAM. This is a key attribute for a server running virtualization since everyone knows that VM’s love memory. It is important to note, though, the memory will only run at 800Mhz when all 18 slots are used. In comparison, if you only had 6 memory DIMMs installed (3 per processor) then the memory would run at 1333Mhz and 12 DIMMs installed (6 per processor) runs at 1066Mhz. As a final note on the memory, this server will be able to use both 1.5v and 1.35v memory. The 1.35v will be newer memory that is introduced as the Intel Westmere EP processor becomes available. The big deal about this is that lower voltage memory = lower overall power requirements.

Drives
The second big difference is the HS22v does not use hot-swap drives like the HS22 does. Instead, it uses a 2 x solid state drives (SSD) for local storage. These drives have hardware RAID 0/1 capabilities standard. Although the picture to the right shows a 64GB SSD drive, my understanding is that only 50GB drives will be available as they start to become readlily available on March 19, with larger sizes (64GB and 128GB) becoming available in the near future. Another thing to note is that the image shows a single SSD drive, however the 2nd drive is located directly beneath. As mentioned above, these drives do have the ability to be set up in a RAID 0 or 1 as needed.

So – why did IBM go back to using internal drives? For a few reasons:

Reason #1
: in order to get the space to add the extra memory slots, a change had to be made in the design. IBM decided that solid state drives were the best fit.

Reason #2: the SSD design allows the server to run with lower power. It’s well known that SSD drives run at a much lower power draw than physical spinning disks, so using SSD’s will help the HS22v be a more power efficient blade server than the HS22.

Reason #3: a common trend of virtualization hosts, especially VMware ESXi, is to run on integrated USB devices. By using an integrated USB key for your virtualization software, you can eliminate the need for spinning disks, or even SSD’s therefore reducing your overall cost of the server.

Processors
So here’s the sticky area. IBM will be releasing the HS22v with the Intel Xeon 5500 processor first. Later in March, as the Intel Westmere EP (Intel Xeon 5600) is announced, IBM will have models that come with it. IBM will have both Xeon 5500 and Xeon 5600 processor offerings. Why is this? I think for a couple of reasons:

a) the Xeon 5500 and the Xeon 5600 will use the same chipset (motherboard) so it will be easy for IBM to make one server board, and plop in either the Nehalem EP or the Westmere EP

b) simple – IBM wants to get this product into the marketplace sooner than later.

Questions

1) Will it fit into the BladeCenter E?
YES – however there may be certain limitations, so I’d recommend you reference the IBM BladeCenter Interoperability Guide for details.

2) Is it certified to run VMware ESX 4?
YES

3) Why didn’t IBM call it HS22XM?
According to IBM, the “XM” name is feature focused while “V” is workload focused – a marketing strategy we’ll probably see more of from IBM in the future.

That’s it for now. If there are any questions you have about the HS22v, let me know in the comments and I’ll try to get some answers.

For more on the IBM HS22v, check out IBM’s web site here.

Check back with me in a few weeks when I’m able to give some more info on what’s coming from IBM!

As I mentioned previously, the next few weeks are going to be filled with new product / technology annoucements. Here’s a list of some dates that you may want to mark on your calendar (and make sure to come back here for details:)

Feb 9 – Big Blue new product announcement (hint: in the BladeCenter family)

Mar 2 – Big Blue non-product annoucement (hint: it’s not the eX4 family)

Mar 16 – Intel Westmere (Intel Xeon 5600) Processor Announcement (expect HP and IBM to announce their Xeon 5600 offerings)

Mar 30 – Intel Nehalem EX (Xeon 7600) Processor Annoucement (expect HP and IBM to announce their Intel Xeon 7600 offerings)

As always, you can expect for me to give you coverage on the new blade server technology as it gets announced!

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