At Sovran’s recent annual TechFest event, I was curious why HP had gone from the standard G-series names to call their next generation of servers, Gen8. It turned out, that the use of the “standard” naming convention led to a name that was offensive in the Chinese language and thus I will resist using the previously “standard” convention in this article because it is likely to be presented on the Internet at some future date. Of course, neither HP nor I would want to give our financially benevolent Asiatic net-denizens a reason to place another brick in their “Great Firewall”.
One of the main rationales for HP to create the Gen8 series is so that it can incorporate Intel’s “SandyBridge” (E5-2×00) processor products into its server line. Since the new Intel processors feature a direct connection of the processor to the PCI Express subsystem for greater performance and efficiency, HP was required to make a major change to its system boards as well. It also provided an opportunity to support a greater memory bandwidth and larger memory capacity. (30% greater than Xeon 5600 Series in G7).
In order to make the new generation of servers more robust, system maintenance has been improved over HP’s previous excellent maintenance features by improved access to PCI Riser(s) (extra optional risers available in some models), clear plastic air baffles, flat cabling, and otherwise tool-less service features. Additionally, a new, improved Smart Carrier for 2.5” hard drives has been redesigned to incorporate an Online/Fault LED with an Activity Ring and a RED “Do Not Remove” LED. The result is minimized data loss and improved serviceability. Then, there is the Flexible LAN on Motherboard (Flex-LOM) for rack servers, which provides 4x1G and 1x10G NIC capability which is upgradeable when 20G/40G NIC solutions become available. Now, your Gen8 system will not become obsolete when you need to increase your LAN bandwidth. Finally, the new systems support the new DDR3 Memory (DDR3-1600) which offers greater speed (1600MHz) and capacity (slots for 24 DIMMs providing up to 768GB depending on the model’s capabilities) while a lower voltage memory is available at a slightly lower speed and power consumption. But, if that isn’t enough new features, HP has designed a new series of Platinum Common Slot Power Supplies which have been re-engineered to provide an industry leading 94% efficiency for a 750 Watt package (460W and 1200W supplies also available). Your energy bill will be going towards meaningful computation and less to waste heat.
Time was that we had to purchase a board and then a license to get all of the maintenance features available in the HP/Compaq systems. And that is not to mention the inconvenience of having to set up a separate system to collect the data from any single server. In Gen8, everything has been integrated into the system board. Now all that is required is a browser.
In Gen8, the HP Embedded Insight Remote Support has a built-in “phone-home” (shades of ET) function to ease setup, configuration, and maintenance. Since this system does not rely on an OS-installed agent, it is not affected by changes to the OS’s patches or upgrades. Furthermore, the built-in phone-home capability enables automated support case creation when the system is connected to HP.com through HP Insight Remote Support or a Channel Partner (such as SOVRAN).
The HP Agentless Management allows monitoring of basic hardware health and alerting without the need for OS agents (which may not even have been available for some operating systems in the past). Since this feature is independent of the OS and main CPU (that is, it runs on the HP iLO Management Engine), it allows the server to operate at a higher performance level. Furthermore, it doesn’t have to wait for the OS to boot before it can start as in the past, but rather it now operates in an “Instant-On” mode when the server is connected to a power source.
In conjunction with the HP iLO Management Engine, the Gen8 systems provide an “Intelligent Provisioning” capability. That is, in addition to the Pre-OS Hardware Configuration, the OS installation media and SmartStart functionality are built into the system’sROM. The result is a short time from system setup to final in-production utilization. This means that all HP System Software (the firmware, agents, drivers, configuration tools, etc.) is pre-loaded. Additionally, there is a built-in upgrade functionality for downloading the latest HP Service Pack(s) directly from the Web or a local repository.
Amazingly, the HP iLO Management Engine with Insight Online monitors a “sea of sensors”. TheSeaofSensorsis really an array of sensors on stand-up cards that delivers a 3-Dimensional view of the system’s heating pattern. The Management Engine’s utilization of this data results in 30% less fan power required to cool the server. This is a real blessing for the service personnel who in the past had to tackle heat related problems in HP servers.
Then there is the HP Active Health System which provides “always-on diagnostics” that enable increased system stability, uptime, and reliability. This system incorporates all the diagnostic tools or scanners into one package that reports all health and service alerts. The information that it collects is then easily exported and uploaded to HP Service and Support resulting in a 5 times faster time to diagnose the root cause of any hardware fault.
For further information about this new series of HP products and continued availability of HP G7 products, please contact the professional sales representatives or HP certified systems engineers at SOVRAN, Inc.