Blade Systems Drive Efficiency and Simplicity in IT Environments

The organizations in this study had selected HP blades as the platform to virtualize their compute environments to converge and simplify their datacenters. Prior to acquiring blades, only one of the seven had implemented any appreciable virtualization. After the migration to blades, the average server virtualization is 80% and they have also virtualized 67% of their workloads. As a result, the organizations have reduced their annual costs by 68% (see Figure 2).

Costs for IT Infrastructure, IT Staff, and User Productivity with and without Blades

Reducing the Cost of Infrastructure across the IT Environment

The customer interviews and IDC ROI modeling make clear that blades deliver cost savings in several areas, yet there are four main categories of efficiency improvements:

  • Compute infrastructure. Migrating to a blade environment enables customers to consolidate physical servers while maintaining the same workload capacity and performance, which reduces capital expenditure on server hardware. IT organizations are able to improve IT resource utilization rates by reducing the number of servers, a factor that is further enhanced through virtualization. Those companies using outsourced server hosting services reduced their hosting costs. Companies implementing blades reduced server hardware and associated software and hosting costs by 58% (see the accompanying table).
  • Network infrastructure. All of the companies have deployed Virtual Connect modules and as a result have reduced LAN and SAN switching and cabling costs by 60%. The reduction in SAN switching comes from the ability to connect a storage link with an entire BladeSystem and thereby avoid the need to attach separate Fibre Channel (FC) host bus adapters (HBAs) for each server. Customers were able to preserve their investments in LAN and SAN even though storage requirements were doubling annually.
  • IT facilities. Blades reduce power and cooling consumption because of the integrated platform and efficiencies gained through shared power and cooling components. On average, companies in this study reduced power costs and avoided facilities expansion, saving an average of 63% for facilities footprint costs and 36% for power.
  • Hosting. Some organizations reported that with the improved availability that blades enabled them to achieve, along with increased datacenter staff time available, they could bring “back in house” Web content and applications that they had formerly hosted externally, leading to a 75% reduction in hosting costs.

As the accompanying table illustrates, IT organizations that migrated to HP BladeSystem reduced their annual IT infrastructure cost by 58%. The greatest areas of savings included facilities (footprint and energy) (63%), server hardware (55%), network hardware (60%), and power and cooling (36%). The accompanying table presents the relative reduction in various datacenter costs — facilities, hardware, software, power and cooling, and so forth — that survey participants experienced after implementing BladeSystem.

Table: Costs for IT Infrastructure Elements in Traditional versus Blade Environments

  Traditional ($) Blades ($) Savings ($) % Savings
Server hardware 2,919 1,301 1,618 55
Hosting fees 1,060 265 795 75
Facilities 389 144 245 63
Network hardware 2,812 1,124 1,689 60
Power 1,182 752 430 36
Management tools 441 265 176 40
Storage 908 211 696 77
Total 9,712 4,062 5,649 58

Definitions and Notes:

  • All values are per year (12 months).
  • All values are per 100 connected users. We define connected users as the number of users actively linked to and interacting on the infrastructure network.
  • The IT Staff Costs sum the costs of IT staff time to manage and implement all aspects of datacenter operations.

Source: IDC, 2012

Virtualization Further Enhances IT Efficiencies

IDC has always believed that blades represent an excellent consolidation platform; several organizations in the study chose blades to initiate virtualized environments. IT organizations running virtualization for more than 70% of their blades ranked highest across our sample in IT infrastructure savings. As an increasing number of VMs are deployed per physical server blade, IT is able to further reduce hardware expenditure, as well as the cost of tools, by purchasing the appropriate amount of system software for the reduced hardware footprint.

Enhanced Connectivity

The blade platform is an integrated architecture that matches well with the goals of virtualization. It is common to find blade deployments that are heavily virtualized to the point where the number of virtual servers dwarfs the physical servers. While virtualization has benefits in lower capital expense and consolidating physical footprint, there are still a number of challenges to server connectivity, most notably:

  • I/O bottlenecks because of the running of a higher number of virtual machines on physical servers
  • Two parallel but separate networks: Ethernet-based LANs for their servers and storage area networks (SANs) for storage (This is costly and inefficient, both in duplicated capital requirements and in network administration and management burden.)

HP Virtual Connect is a network technology designed to simplify the connection and management of servers to datacenter networks. By creating pools of LAN and SAN addresses that can be assigned dynamically to server bays, it decouples the network addressing from the server hardware and effectively “virtualizes” the network connections. Virtual Connect then delivers a “wire once change ready infrastructure” that allows the server administrator to become more autonomous in deploying and managing servers and their connections to the network while freeing up time for network and storage administrators to focus on their core areas and not be consumed by server administration tasks.

HP Virtual Connect addresses the I/O bottleneck by enabling up to four physical functions per physical 10Gb NIC port; only two interconnect modules are now needed, compared with the eight switches and additional I/O mezzanine cards (both Ethernet and Fibre Channel) and cables that would have been required previously. Additionally, one of the latest enhancements is the ability to direct connect Virtual Connect FlexFabric to HP 3PAR SAN Array, eliminating the need to deploy a costly and complex Fibre Channel infrastructure in between the blade chassis and storage SAN. These result in simplified storage network management, faster deployment, and further reduced hardware costs.