HP’s Virtual Connect technology offerings are all about consolidation of network and fiber channel, much in the same way that blade chassis are to the physical server offerings. Virtual Connect allows for fewer physical connections to be shared and flexibly assigned to blades within an HP BladeSystem. I have been using this technology for going on a couple years and I can say, it works great. Virtual Connect is also about flexibility and options. The technology buys the ability to create a profile for a server with virtual MAC and WWID and have those move with the profile from blade server to blade server and have the blade boot on different hardware quickly. We employ that functionality as a semi-disaster recovery for quick recovery if we lose a blade server due to a hardware problem.
Virtual Connect is about consolidation by reducing the number of physical connections required. From the fiber channel modules, two 4-port VC-Fiber modules connect an entire chassis to the fabric, and then using NPIV, the fiber channel traffic is sent to individual blade servers within the chassis. The 16 blade slots all share the 4 ports of each VC module.
The new development on the ethernet Virtual Connect side is a technology known as Flex-10. Flex-10 is a new technology which helps to overcome some of the traditional challenges of blades (such as lack of NICs) when looking at blades for virtualization projects. Virtual Connect Flex-10 allows up to 4 times as many NIC connections per blade server. In a simliar way to the fiber channel implementation, a single Flex-10 physical NIC (pNIC) on a blade server can be divided into 4 logical NICs or FlexNICs. These FlexNICs can be configured to different port speeds and capacities.
A blade server with two integrated Flex-10 NICs will have 8 logicial FlexNICs on the motherboard, and each one of those has it’s own MAC address. These MAC addresses, like earlier blade NICs, can be overridden in the Virtual Connect server profiles and can be assigned virtualized MAC addresses, so the Flex-10 servers get the same portability that earlier server profiles in Virtual Connect offered.
The Flex-10 technology is a two parter – requiring both Flex-10 Ethernet modules on the interconnect bays of the blade enclosure and Flex-10 NICs in the blade servers. Fortunately for companies with existing investments, the Flex-10 Ethernet interconnect modules are backwards compatible with earlier integrated NICs on your existing blades.
Each FlexNIC can be sized from 100Mb up to a full 10Gb speeds in 100MB increments. The incredible thing, is that with the two available mezzanine cards and the integrated pNIC’s, Flex-10 technology allows for up to 24 FlexNICs per blade – an incredible amount in a such a compact space.
We have plans of implementing this technology, so hopefully I can post a follow up from personal experiences once we begin that project.