What is most valuable?
HP’s blades are by far the most configurable of all the ones we’ve tried. We're a company that deploys less than 60 blades a year in the data center, so it wouldn’t make sense to have a stand up UCS because we’re only standing up half a chassis of blades every year.
HP’s chassis is modular, so it’s economical. The architecture and model make sense for us -- and for other small-medium sized companies like us -- to stay with HP.
How has it helped my organization?
It would be good to see the driver support improved as this has been the weakest feature of the system. Despite this, we are still 2 points better than anyone else in the market.
Also, the learning curve for configuring the first UCS blade is very steep. The difference is that with HP, if you understand the principles of how to get the blade to talk to the outside way, it’s difficult to not get it to work just by poking around the HP switch.
What needs improvement?
I’m glad HP doesn’t do configuration wizards, because they make a lot of assumptions of what you’re trying to do today (only works if they know what your model is). Keep the cookbooks going, because they work a lot better.
One word of advice for UI: don’t let the web devs decide what features you need.
What was my experience with deployment of the solution?
If I were a generic IT support guy and had a complaint with deployment, it would be that it’s hard to get to the bench and pull somebody off it who can timely fix a detailed technical problem.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
Stability, overall, is very good, and it’s kind of like an old jazz song -- when it’s good, it’s very good; but when it’s bad, it’s terrible.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
For small/medium sized businesses, the C-series blade chassis are great for the reasons I’ve said (they come in the right-sized bites).
If you’re a small business, you don’t want a blade chassis; but if you’re enormous, then you’re buying them by the rack (so perhaps UCS makes sense).
But for us, we needed the right-sized chassis, for which HP is the right fit. We’re going to go heavier into it, and I’m leaning toward us standing up the next production database in blades.
How are customer service and technical support?
Once, we had a machine fall over, and we were quickly escalated up to the appropriate level of support. The bad news is that they didn’t tackle the problem quickly. We couldn’t afford to have servers down, and HP didn’t deal with it quickly. They first said to upload the logs, which we did. We were told to deploy an updated package of software – which we did not want to do since we wanted to stick with a stable release that was working for us.
It was a bit of a struggle to get Level 3 support to pay attention to our problem. The field technician was eventually the one who fixed it.
However, it’s good that HP still has a dual support platform (one for IT professionals and one for non-IT), unlike Dell, where it sometimes feels like you are wasting time talking to support teams that don’t understand your technical experience.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
We use both BladeSystem and RackMail System a lot. By utilizing the computing capacity of both systems, we have more cores of HP’s BladeSystem than anything else. Our company’s growing so fast that we’re age-ing stuff out and replacing it very quickly.
I am not interested in new and shiny; I need usability right now. We switch whenever we do a hardware replace, and we tend to prefer HP’s computer platforms as they’ve proven to us that it's best not to mix and match in the computer space.
So far, we've bought only small devices, so it's not painful to change storage devices. Because of how we grow (acquisition and internally), we own mostly Dell the vast majority of the time, and as those systems go out, we replace them with HP hardware.
How was the initial setup?
Pretty straightforward. The tech talk documentation is very good (cookbook). They have standard scenario templates for blade chassis and they walk you through the whole configuration for whatever your needs are. They’re not brand-centric, so we can use whatever switch we’ve got, we can configure all the ports very easily, and it's straightforward to do so.
HP’s tech talks are significantly better than the market, especially Dell’s, and it’s easy for me to compute my blade chassis without too much headache.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
We casually looked at Cisco UCS (we’ve currently got a running installation, both fairly young machines right now), which completely loses to HP on ease-of-blade configurability. We’ve also got some Hitachi blades that are even worse.
The hardware is perfectly good hardware, unlike Cisco where I don’t like some of the design, and Hitachi’s blades just aren’t economical for our growth and configurability uses. You only have to configure the amount of blades that you need with HP.
What other advice do I have?
We often do a rack-and-replace on hardware at a site we buy, and we need products that can keep up with our growth rate. We replace anything that's rendered obsolete when we grow, often replacing them with HP products.
The other thing that keeps us coming back to HP is the ease of support (ease that we have in supporting the server hardware and maintaining it). Ease of configurability and configuration for VMWare are very important.
We’re in the process of buying 14 new HP products.
Remember to take into account your business size when looking at the solution (see above). First, I would listen to peer reviews and figure out what your sizing needs are, because architecture decisions are not obvious.
I want to see VARs think more analytically regarding company needs. HP could differentiate itself more effectively by getting its VARs to think more like consultants.