HP Aims for Greater Flexibility in the Cloud

Arthur Cole
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Seven Barriers to Server Consolidation

We set out to find what is holding back server consolidation, in the hope that identifying the problems will spur a stronger drive to overcome them -- and produce a leaner, meaner data center in the end.

It's not often that we see a new class of server that offers more than just a faster, better version of the old class.

But with HP's new Gen 8 ProLiant, the consensus is that it really does represent a new kind of server environment for modern data centers - one that only improves data processing and handling, but streamlines management and deployment operations as well.

The ProLiant Gen 8 offers a level of automation that the company says triples the speed at which updates can be implemented and cuts downtime more than 90 percent. The idea is to allow the kind of flexibility that meets the dynamic workload requirements expected of virtual and cloud environments. The platform includes tools like integrated lifecycle automation, dynamic workload acceleration and energy optimization, all geared toward a hands-off management style that either eliminates or greatly alleviates many mundane server management tasks.

The Gen 8 is intended as one of the building blocks for HP's new Converged Infrastructure, according to InformationWeek's Charles Babcock. The idea is to organize server, storage and networking resources into virtualized pools that can be compiled and reconfigured through policies and automated processes. A key component in this approach is the widespread deployment of sensors in individual servers, and presumably other hardware, providing broad insight into operating conditions and streamlining command-and-control functions to provide greater infrastructure flexibility.

In the process, says ITBE's Michael Vizard, HP is reinventing x86 architectures by attacking the major cost factor involved in distributed environments: management. With monitoring capability for more than 1,600 system parameters, plus automated change management and expanded power/cooling control, Gen 8 installations provide a high degree of scalability that will be crucial for future cloud deployments.

That's primarily why HP spent two years and $300 million developing the platform, says The New York Times' Quentin Hardy. With cloud computing emphasizing scalability and flexibility over state-of-the-art technology, HP and other top vendors are facing the prospect of entirely new data infrastructures populated by low-cost machines by Flextronics, Quanta and others. By cutting the provisioning process from five hours to 10 minutes or less, HP may be able to convince buyers not to jump too quickly in the cloud, or at least give hybrid computing a good try.

In all likelihood, the commoditization of server hardware will continue apace, which means HP and others must continue to adapt to higher volumes and tighter margins. But by focusing more on the management infrastructure and the server's role in the broader data ecosystem, HP has a shot at countering the extremes of commodity hardware with a little something called "value."

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