Infrastructure is the name of the game at HP Discover 2014

HP Discover 2014Hewlett-Packard has not left a stone unturned at its HP Discover summit this week, unloading a slew of products as part of a two-pronged push into the hybrid cloud and the high-performance computing market, where it had long maintained a position as a component supplier but never attempted to compete over the lucrative supercomputer deals historically dominated by the likes of IBM and Cray.

That is changing with HP Apollo, a new family of HPC solutions based on a modular architecture that the company says transforms petabyte-scale computing from a luxury reserved for academia and  government into just another tool on the enterprise CIO’s belt.

The  enterprise data center takes center stage


The base configuration of the Apollo 6000, one of the two solutions available on launch, is a 5U chassis that holds up to 10 trays packing two low-end ProLiant XL220a blade servers each. The system can be scaled up to house as many as 160 of the Xeon-powered machines  in a 48U rack that HP claims requires less than half floor space and a quarter of the energy that would be needed for a comparable system built using Dell hardware.

The beefier Apollo 8000 abandons the air-cooling mechanism of its more affordable sibling in favor of a pioneering water-based design that practically eliminates the risk of liquid coming in contact with electronics through the creative use of sealed pipes placed against circuit boards.

The company claims that this “dry-disconnect” approach allows for faster cooling than traditional setups that use warm water, affording greater density: the system can hold up to 144 servers per rack with “plenty of accelerator, PCIe, and throughput options.” That presumably includes Fusion-io’s new Atom Series 6.4-terabyte flash card, which, as of this morning, is being resold exclusively by HP to ProLiant customers.

Keeping both feet firmly on the ground


Although it’s now evidently fully committed to take its place alongside arch-rival IBM in the upper echelons of the supercomputer market, Hewlett-Packard is not losing sight of the bigger enterprise picture. In fact, the company is attempting to fold its latest pivot into its core hybrid computing strategy with the new Helion Self-Service HPC platform.

The latest fruit of a $1 billion cloud investment originally announced in May, the offering is among the first to implement HP’s OpenStack distribution, details of which still remain scarce. The vendor describes the solution as a customizable portal for provisioning Apollo deployments and other  large-scale clusters complete with built-in integrations, access controls and a generous dose of automation.

That functionality can supposedly be delivered throughout an entire organization thanks to what HP calls a “common open architecture” that maintains operational consistency across clouds. The company is promising to provide  the same level of centralization in the network with a new management solution designed to provide a single point of control for the more than 50 of its switches that are compatible with OpenFlow programmable communications protocol. The latest addition to the lineup is the FlexFabric 7900, which was announced in conjunction with the platform and supports 10GbE, 40GbE and 100GbE connectivity as well as HP’s proprietary IRF network virtualization framework.

The company is extending the software-defined gamut to other parts of the data center with its OneView automation tool, which has been enhanced to provide better support for 3PAR arrays and integrated with the ConvergedSystem for Virtualization. The StoreOnce Backup family also received an upgrade in the form of centralized recovery management capabilities, while the StoreServ series has been augmented with a new all-flash machine that comes in at less than $2 per gigabyte.

Standardizing under a secure governance model


Despite its diversity, the heterogeneous group of components that make up HP’s hybrid cloud vision is underpinned by a singular set of requirements, chief among which is security. But until now, the firm didn’t have a cohesive offering for protecting data  throughout its entire lifecycle. It’s hoping to plug that hole with Atalla, a newly introduced portfolio of solutions for defending against internal and external threats.

The family includes a self-explanatory Cloud Encryption solution that centralizes key management across on- and off-premise environments and a complementary Information Protection and Control app that scrambles data in existing business processes without requiring any manual integration. The two tools, which are available immediately, are joined by a new version of HP’s ESKM control appliance that works with the company’s ProLiant Gen8 servers and other hardware out-of-the-box.