BladeSystem Matrix takes aim at Cisco

HP's converged platform seeks to simplify application deployment

HP has rolled out BladeSystem Matrix, a converged software, server, storage and network platform designed to compete against Cisco's Unified Computing System.

BladeSystem Matrix, announced Monday, weaves numerous hardware and software pieces together into one system, creating "an integrated pool of resources that operate in both physical and virtual environments," HP says. A self-service portal allows IT shops to quickly design, deploy and optimize applications, the company says.

The idea is to eliminate the "islands" of IT in which separate teams manage servers, networking, power, and virtual machines, says Jim Ganthier, HP's vice president of marketing for infrastructure, software and blades.

"What if the data center were just one large pool, a pool of compute, a pool of networking and storage, all run by a very simple, easy-to-use management framework," he says.

HP's announcement comes two months after Cisco unveiled UCS, which will tie together compute, network, virtualization, storage access and management technologies into one platform. The Cisco UCS is designed for rapid application deployment in highly virtualized data centers.

Also competing in this market is Liquid Computing, a relatively new vendor that boasts of its ability to support virtualized and bare metal applications with the same management system. Liquid Computing has its unified platform on the market, while Cisco's will not be generally available until June.

HP's BladeSystem Matrix starts at US$150,000.

Liquid and HP have both criticized Cisco for focusing solely on virtualization at the expense of applications running on physical servers. Cisco documentation on the Unified Computing System say it does support bare-metal operating environments, but HP says its own system goes a step further by managing physical and virtual resources from the same pane of glass.

HP's BladeSystem Matrix starter kit comes in a full rack with ProLiant blades; a StorageWorks array; HP Virtual Connect Flex-10 Ethernet and 8GB Fibre Channel modules; and Insight Dynamics software to manage and automatically provision resources. For virtualization, HP gives customers a choice of VMware, Microsoft and Citrix hypervisors.

Starter kits can be as small as a few blades in one rack, but expansion kits based on a modular architecture will let customers scale up without limits, Ganthier says.

HP Monday also announced a new LeftHand storage-area network product and other storage systems designed for virtual servers. The various new products are all based on the idea that there should be more flexible connections between servers and storage and that IT shops should be able to converge on a single infrastructure that eliminates complexity, according to HP. Ganthier promised several other announcements on this theme in the next couple of months.

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