What's new with HP ProLiant Gen8 servers

I recently visited an HP roadshow presentation of their new ProLiant server generation Gen8. This has been around for a while, and you might already have seen some announcements, slides etc. Sometimes it can be hard to really learn about what is actually innovative, new and better (compared to older generations) with Gen8, because of all the buzz words and marketing going on about initiatives like "Voyager", "ProActive Insight Architecture" and so on. So I took some notes about "the hard facts" and decided to turn them into this blog post.

According to HP Gen8 is basically about reducing the following three cost factors:

  • Manual actions
  • Energy costs
  • Unplanned downtimes

Before I focus on these three items, let's quickly summarize what hardware changes come with Gen8:

  • Support for Intel Sandy Bridge EP (Xeon E5-2600) processors. These new CPUs have
    • the I/O hub integrated on the CPU die
    • four (formerly three) memory channels per CPU socket
    • two (formerly one) Quick Path Interlinks (QPIs) per socket
    • up to 8 CPU cores
    • Support for PCIe 3.0 (formerly 2.0)
  • The new iLO generation 4
    • incorporating a new 4GB flash RAM (for storing drivers, firmwares etc.)
    • removing the necessity to deploy hardware management agents into the OS (everything is monitored by and through iLO)
    • introducing a mobile app (for Android and iOS) for remote management
  • New SmartArray controllers (22x and 42x models) with FBWC (= Flash Backed Write Cache) only (no more BBWC = Battery Backed Write Cache)

Reducing manual actions

Together with Gen8 HP introduced a new version (5.0) of their Smart Update Manager (SUM). It was completely rewritten to be more intelligent and shall be able to completely automate the update process of complex hardware setups with multiple dependencies. If you have ever planned and executed firmware updates for HP Blade enclosures then you know that this was a very time consuming and error prone process so far with lots of manual tasks. HP SUM 5.0 now promises to make it a no-brainer and a streamlined, completely automated experience without the requirement of planned downtimes. I am very curious to try this out ...

At the same time HP announced a new support policy for their Service Packs for ProLiant. These are bootable ISOs containing certified sets of drivers and firmwares for ProLiant hardware and the new HP SUM tool. They are the successors of the Firmware maintenance CDs/DVDs that you may already know. HP plans to release a new Service Pack every four months and will support at least three consecutive releases - that means you may update all your firmwares only every 12 months while keeping your environment fully supported by HP. Of course there will be hotfixes between releases to address urgent issues. You can find the relevant links on my HP & VMware links page.

Reducing Energy costs and unplanned downtimes

HP has greatly increased the number of hardware sensors in the new ProLiants, they are distributed all over the chassis on multiple levels forming a "3D sea of sensors". With "HP ActiveHealth" (another great marketing term) there is also a new system for detecting and pro-actively mitigating hardware failures. This intelligence is part of the new iLO4 board that will also store a complete history of more than 1.600 system parameters and measured values. This data can be exported and uploaded to HP SnS for hardware analysis and troubleshooting.

They also claim to have made their power supplies even more efficient: The best efficiency value is still 94%, but it is now kept over a broader range of output powers.

Availability and next steps

At the time there are Gen8 version of the two socket models ML350p, DL160, DL360p and DL380p, BL460c, SL230s and SL250s. Although one of the main drivers for the new platform is the new Intel CPU architecture there will also be Gen8 models of the AMD based ProLiants available later this year.

One last note: If you already have gotten your hands on a new Gen8 ProLiant and want to install VMware vSphere on it then be sure that you use the HP Customized ESXi ISOs. The VMware vanilla ISOs do not yet include the required hardware drivers.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! Question: I have a Gen8 server that I am trying to build as an ESXi 5.0 U1 Host. I created custom ks.cfg and isolinux.cfg scripts and saved them back into the HP supplied ISO file. The custom ISO can fully build a G7 VMhost, but fails on a Gen8 server. I receive a checksum error after the system completes the POST process. Do you know of any differences between the Gen8 servers looking at checksums in these ISO files?



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