This week HP announced the new ProLiant Gen8 server line, the world’s most self-sufficient servers. I know, HPC customers are looking for the detailed speeds and feeds, and that information will become available in the coming weeks as specific ProLiant Gen8 servers are announced. However, there is plenty of information today to talk about with customers looking to deploy a complete HPC solution. Today I’ll review four key pillars of the ProLiant Gen8 architecture:
and explain how HPC customers benefit from the millions of dollars of research and development that went into HP’s newest servers.
Integrated Lifecycle Automation
Managing a cluster of 100’s or 1000’s of compute nodes can be a challenge for any customer. At the heart of HP’s industry leading management capabilities is the HP iLO (integrated lights out) management engine. With over 28 million ProLiant servers deployed in the market, iLO is in such widespread use that HP’s iLO drivers have been incorporated into the baseline kernel.org Linux code base and thus included in all Linux distributions. How many other vendors can claim that about their systems management capailities?
The newest iLO4 engine included in Gen8 servers introduces several advances of significant interest to HPC customers. Perhaps the biggest is that iLO4 doesn’t require any host OS daemons to operate, thus significantly reducing OS jitter, a common cause of unpredictable application performance. Most other management tools on the market require a management process, or daemon, to run on the host OS. Such daemons typically use < 1% of the host CPU and thus have little impact on enterprise workloads. However, in an HPC environment, when you may have 1000's of nodes operating in lockstep, for instance running a cluster-wide MPI job, each time a management daemon wakes up and runs it not only slows down that individual node by 1%, but slows down all nodes in the cluster by 1%. It doesn't take too long to wreck havoc on cluster performance. Historically many HPC sys admins have spent a lot of time removing all management daemons for exactly that reason. Of course some people drive while talking on a cell phone too. Flying blind is not a good idea.
Now with iLO4, no management daemons are required on the host OS, simplifying installation and significantly reducing OS jitter and boosting performance. In addition, since no host OS software is required for iLO4, that means management capabilities are available as soon as you cable your server with power and networking, before you load an OS, and even if you should have an OS failure during operation. In addition, the ProLiant Gen8 Active Health Monitoring system captures critical server diagnostics completely within the iLO4 engine, without host CPU or host OS intervention, preserving the data for HP service personnel should there be any host OS or hardware failure.
Dynamic Workload Acceleration
Every HPC customer I’ve ever talked to is interested in higher performance, and ProLiant Gen8 features a host of dynamic workload acceleration technologies to deliver higher performance in an industry standard server. In particular, HPC applications are particular heavy users of memory and i/o subsystems. Starting with the memory subsystem, HP has engineered the ProLiant Gen8 line to support the fastest currently available 1600 MHz memory on two DIMMs per memory channel. When you add a second memory DIMM to a memory channel on many other servers, the memory system will clock down to 1333 MHz, even when using 1600 MHz DIMMs. Going beyond the memory to the storage system, ProLiant Gen8 servers introduce a new SmartArray controller. The latest SmartArray controller not only supports double the number of drives but also is optimized for new SSD/flash technology which more and more HPC customers are incorporating into their servers. The Gen8 family will also continue its industry leading support for Nvidia GPUs, expanding on the integrated GPU support offered in the current SL390s Gen7.
Automated Energy Optimization
The ProLiant Gen8 family starts by offering some of the most energy efficient power supplies available, with up to 94% efficiency. Many supposedly “low cost” servers have power supplies with 84% or less efficiency, leading to 10% or higher power costs which can really add up over the lifetime of your system. HP Intelligent PDUs automatically track power usage and document configurations to increase system uptime and reduce the risk of outages. And with the new ProLiant Gen8 FlexNet networking, energy management is even extended to your network interfaces.
Proactive Service and Support
A showcase of the new ProLiant Gen8 proactive service and support capabilities is HP Insight Online, the industry’s first cloud-based IT management and support portal. But even customers who can’t connect their HPC clusters to the outside world can benefit from service and support features designed deep into the new ProLiant Gen8 line. My favorite is the new smart disk drive carrier, not only is the carrier more compact, allowing more drives to be fit into the same size server, but a new “safe to remove” light on the carrier helps prevent you from removing a drive that is actively in use by the system.
The ProLiant Gen8 family will include many models spanning HP’s DL (rack mount), BL (blade), and SL (scale-out) product families, but with its Integrated Lifecycle Automation, Dynamic Workload Acceleration, Automated Energy Optimization, and Proactive Service and Support, these servers are more optimized for HPC than any other industry standard server on the planet. Starting with the Purdue Carter cluster, which debuted at #54 on the Top500 list last November, HP has already deployed 1000’s of ProLiant Gen8 servers to HPC customers through our early ship program, and with this week’s ProLiant Gen8 announcement and upcoming server launches, the power of ProLiant Gen8 will soon be available to all HP customers across the planet.