What is most valuable?
We like the wire once approach. We've had to do very little maintenance on the backend connectivity components. We really have been able to basically leave our fiber and Ethernet connections alone. I think in our ten years on two BladeSystem enclosures, we've done one infield upgrade, to raise our capacity limits on Ethernet and fiber channel. But really, the same enclosures have been doing fantastic for that entire time.
What needs improvement?
We had a lot of work to do from a management perspective as an administrator to ensure that we had the correct firmware and driver levels, and things like that, between servers. HPE fixed that when they introduced the service pack for ProLiant. OneView has expanded the idea of server profiles and added some additional management ease - including the ability to define firmware levels for blades - the way that a Cisco UCS blade does.
For how long have I used the solution?
We've been a BladeSystem customer for over 10 years.
What was my experience with deployment of the solution?
The ecosystem of software the comes with HPE blade has been lacking. HPE's Rapid Deployment Pack (was rebranded Altiris when I used it) is clunky solution for imaging blades and it may have been replaced. Sometimes the NPIV makes it difficult to find WWN in the fibre channel SAN when bringing a new blade online.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
Early on, I would say that it wasn't stable. Today, however they test all of the firmware and drivers together now, so when we do a deployment or upgrade for firmware, that service pack has been integration tested across all of the different generations and hardware components, so we've gotten a lot more stability out of the solution since they made that change, and that's something I will say across multiple different solutions. Sometimes if they identify a problem like that as a partner, they tend to try to correct it. It may take them some time to get it corrected, but we went through the same sort of thing with StoreOnce ... Early on we had some issues with the software releases and there were some inefficiencies that in a couple generations they had it worked out and they listened to customer feedback. They try to integrate that into their solutions. That's one of the things that keeps us as an HPE customer, because we do feel that communication and feedback gets heard.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
Multiple enclosures at scale can introduce challenges. That's one of the downsides of a ten year old technology. HPE is working on new solutions to really hit scale issues that they have encountered with BladeSystem, but it works fine for us. We are a small to medium sized enterprise, so we've not encountered any major issues with scalability where we are at, but we are running one enclosure per sight, so we're not really trying to do scale things.
How is customer service and technical support?
7/10 - it can be hit or miss. We get better luck with our premium support levels. We have a named TAM for some of our systems, that works out well. Escalation managers are always good. There is good technical talent, it's just sometimes hidden by first level support. That can be difficult and frustrating at times, but over ten years working with them, I would say today it's probably a little better than when I first started. Actually, I would say it's probably improved a good bit since I first started working with them, but it's still got some room to go.
How was the initial setup?
BladeSystem setup was one of my first projects when I joined the company, there was a learning curve to it. It really actually was fairly straightforward except we were trying to do everything boot from SAN, and that added some complexity and learning curve. The actual hardware solution - it was fairly straightforward and made a lot of sense. Blades were brand new back then too, so it was a foreign concept, but it wasn't terrible. I would say maybe a a six out of ten or something initially, but if I had to do it now, it's probably a lot easier.
What other advice do I have?
It really gets the job done well. It's dense compute. We replaced an entire rack of equipment with ten use, twelve use, I can't remember how many use it is, but with a single BladeSystem. It has been a long-sustaining enclosure. We have field upgraded the interconnects twice to add new capabilities as technology changed and those were service affecting but not very difficult. I have worked with Cisco UCS Manager and both have similar concepts. HPE Synergy is also due to launch soon, and althought HPE has a commitment to BladeSystem for the next few years, Synergy is really their next generation of blade technology.
It really gets the job done. The management is easy, it's been easy from an upgrade perspective and maintenance. So, it works really well for us.