Notes on server hardware developments

I’ve just spent the day with HP, learning about their StorageWorks EVA SANs and the current ProLiant server roadmap. It was an interesting day, but most of what was discussed can be found on the HP website; however I did pick up some snippets of information that might be useful:

  • Firstly, when comparing Intel and AMD figures for the power consumption of their servers – if Intel quote the wattage, they quote the mean value, whereas AMD quote a peak figure – so it’s heard to draw accurate comparisons.
  • Secondly, as I reported when I wrote about HP blade servers a few weeks back, 3.5″ Ultra320 SCSI disks are being discontinued in favour of 2.5″ serial-attached SCSI (SAS) disks. The main difference (apart from the smaller form factor) is that SAS disks are switched between lanes (cf. a shared bus with Ultra320), increasing performance in a linear manner with each disk connected to a controller (whereas a shared SCSI channel will typically exhibit a bell-curve in its performance characteristics). Also, the smaller physical size of the disk means that a 10,000RPM 2.5″ disk will provide more-or-less equivalent performance to an similarly specified 15,000RPM 3.5″ disk and that less energy is required to spin it, meaning a lower power consumption (and less heat generated).
  • One of the other changes in the server lineup is a general move from PCI-X to PCI Express (PCIe) slots offering improved performance (many servers allow a combination of the two to be specified).
  • Finally, the new iLO2 management processors (as well as iLO with firmware v1.82 or later) now support schema-less AD integration and iLO2 has a much-improved remote console, with most of the Java code removed, increasing performance drastically.

There’s no real “story” to any of the above – they are just a jumble of notes that might be useful in understanding where HP (and other vendors) are heading in the industry standard x86/x64 server space.

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