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IT Pros Review Top Vendors


Users cite pros and cons of HPE BladeSystem, Cisco UCS B-series, and Lenovo Flex System

In many enterprise organizations, blade servers reduce an enterprise’s footprint by saving space and reducing overall power consumption. IT professionals consider a number of factors when selecting a blade server for their enterprise, including a variety of hardware integrations, easy management, and minimal energy usage.

According to product reviews by IT Central Station users, top blade server vendors in the market include HPE BladeSystem, Cisco UCS B-Series Blade Servers, and Lenovo Flex System Blade Servers.

Here is what our users have to say about working with these products, describing which features they find most valuable and offering insight on where they see room for improvement.

HPE BladeSystem

A senior network administrator at a government agency said he finds HPE BladeSystems’ remote management capabilities as one of its most valuable features:

“Having implemented this solution, it has enabled us to have remote management of equipment problems, to identify the power for reviewing the status of errors without having to be on-site, but remotely from anywhere required. It allows immediate access to the server management and immediate detection of the access logs.”

An enterprise architect at a financial services firm lauds the virtualization capabilities of the product:

“The virtual connect side of networking and the manageability through that is by far the biggest win for us. The blades come and go as racks do, but the virtualization back of it means a lot less hands on and a lot more manageability.”

 

However, the systems engineer of business technology at a transportation company noted that HPE BladeSystems can improve in terms of scalability:

“I would like to see better scalability. We have been using this solution for five years, and sometimes there are scalability issues with relatively older generations. If planned well in advance, it will make your life easier.”

Cisco UCS B-Series

Matthew M., a data center practice manager, takes a holistic point of view on what makes the Cisco UCS B-Series blade server valuable.

“The UCS environment as a whole. The hardware is easily swappable and, utilizing the boot from SAN option, you can always keep your server intact due to the service profiles. So if your blade has failures and you have a hot spare, you can transfer the service profile to a new blade and be operational in mere minutes. Huge for uptime and perfect for environments like VMware ESXi hosts, which is what I use them for primarily.”

A senior system specialist at a construction company wrote that running Cisco UCS in a Vblock infrastructure is particularly beneficial for his company:

“Running in the VCE Vblock gives us the flexibility to deploy a large virtual workload of servers. We use a mix of mainly Windows servers and a few Linux appliances. I had one blade server fail. The replacement was up and operating quickly after the blade server was swapped over.”

But Brad F., a data center systems engineer, noted areas where the Cisco UCS B-Series that could improve:

“The HTML5 interface is a much needed improvement over the old Java interface, but still needs a little work. When customers are first introduced to UCS, the setup is somewhat complex. Yet the learning curve is reasonable.”

Lenovo Flex System Blade Servers

Alejandro D., system X & P/blade/storage/ SAN hardware and software support specialist, cited Lenovo Blade Servers’ redundancy as a valuable feature:

“The features of this product that I value most are total redundancy in all its components: power, cooling, communications, fiber, administration and blades, and a data center in 8U; you can accommodate 14 servers in a BladeCenter H chassis.”

Muhammad S., a senior system administrator at a consumer goods company, provided insight into the product’s central management capabilities:

“Central management of all blade servers and performance: It helps us to access blade servers remotely even at boot time, as well, when we can access the BIOS setup remotely. Other than that, we can restart and shut down blade servers from a single console.”

However, Amirreza Y., a design and development engineer at a communications service provider, said the Lenovo falls short on the storage front:

“The storage part of this product needs to be improved. If storage is also attached to this bundle, it would be a good solution for the databases… In the new version of this product, the Flex System, the storage feature is also available with the CPU and memory.”



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What Users Say About Top Vendors


The all-flash array has matured to the point where it is now powering much of the growth in the enterprise storage business. Advances in the design, performance and management capabilities of solid state drive (SSDs), coupled with declines in cost, make flash storage viable for many workloads. Enterprise storage is relentlessly demanding, though, so potential buyers need to think critically when they choose an AFA.

According to product reviews by IT Central Station users, the top all-flash array vendors on the market are Hewlett-Packard Enterprise with 3PAR flash storageNetAppTintri, Nimble Storage (now part of HPE), Pure Storage, and IBM.

Based on their experience with AFAs from these vendors, contributors at IT Central Station shared their thoughts, including benefits the products provide and areas where they could improve.

HPE 3PAR

Brent Dunington, systems architect at a university, described his company’s decision-making process for choosing HPE 3PAR flash storage:

“We went through a whole data center refresh cycle and one of the things is that we needed to look at our disk system. Everything was for spinning disks, so we decided to make the leap to an all-SSD data center. We brought in all the competitors, went through an RFP process, and 3PAR came ahead.”

A system administrator at an insurance company shared how HPE 3PAR compares to other storage solutions he has used in the past:

“The speed of the Flash Array is better than what we had with the previous products. We like their blades better than the Cisco blades. It is easier to manage.”

Eric Slabbinck, project manager at a government agency, suggested specific features that could improve HPE 3PAR:

“From a personal point of view, what would interest me is a mechanism that detects file rot, i.e., whether a file or sector has become corrupt, e.g., as a result of copying the sector to other locations from the original location.”

NetApp

A lead storage/system engineer at a financial services firm described how NetApp All Flash has helped his organization:

“We have been looking for a flash solution that scales horizontally along with a proven application integration stack. NetApp has been helpful and stable, and enabled us to buy capacity as needed, as well as help in quickly refreshing UAT/DEV environments as needed.”

An R&D executive supervisor at a media company explained what he values most in All Flash FAS:

“It is very user friendly. Someone in my position needs to be able to bring up the system quickly, efficiently, and shut it down if there’s a power outage quickly and efficiently without having trouble. It also supports VMware, which is what we use; but we use the NetApp as our only filer.”

A computer systems engineer at a government agency wrote about product improvements that he’s looking forward to using once they’re released by NetApp:

“We’re interested or excited in getting to 32 GB fiber channel. With their new models, NetApp will be moving to 32 GB fiber. That would potentially raise performance and or lower our port counts, simplifying or minimizing the amount of cables we need to put in places.”

Tintri VMstore

Mike Geller, network administrator at a healthcare company, wrote about the value Tintri has added to his organization:

“Tintri has a great web UI that allows you to view performance of individual VMs, as well as performance of the overall VMstore. Code upgrades are really simple.”

Donald Lopez, IT manager at a tech services company, shared how his organization has benefitted from Tintri:

“Immediately upon installation, we benefited from a 5X speed/performance increase in the overall system for all of our VMs migrated to the unit from an old unreliable Synology storage unit.”

Raymond Handels, system engineer at a university, weighed in on how Tintri could further improve its storage solution:

“Speed of our VDI machines. We have a very high login and logout ratio and machines are being refreshed instantly so we have a constant boot storm on our storage.”

Nimble Storage

Brian Butler, senior network analyst at a financial services firm, explained how deploying Nimble Storage benefitted his organization:

“It has vastly improved the responsiveness of our servers. It adds snapshots to help with our DR. The snapshots are sent across the way into our DR site, so we have DR copies of everything. It’s all around just improved the flow of everything.”

Paul Sabin, senior network and infrastructure manager at a legal firm, noted a shortcoming with Nimble Storage:

“I really would like to see synchronous replication. This is something that when we have multiple arrays in our environment and being able to do something like a zero RPO. Being a law firm, we really want our data to be protected all the time.”

Pure Storage

An information systems analyst at a pharma/biotech company described the value in Pure Storage’s VDI capabilities:

“For VDI, there’s a consistent user experience. Users don’t switch to VDI if it’s not at the same speed as a laptop or desktop, and Pure Storage provides that.”

Andrea Spinazi, chief of information, facility, purchasing and services manager at Roma Metropolitane S.r.l., explained what he finds most beneficial with Pure Storage:

“The most valuable features are extremely low latency, high IOPS with VMware, inline deduplication and compression….We liked the non-disruptive downgrade from FA-420 (POC) to FA-405 in production and the non-disruptive upgrade from FA-405 to M20.”

However, Leonardo Perez, deputy head of IT at a government agency, warned of a Pure Storage drawback:

“Be careful with the type of information you allocate to this storage. The solution is good for virtual machines and databases, but not for images and videos. Compression rates are not good for these types of data.”

IBM FlashSystem

A design engineer at a recruiting/HR firm described the features he values most in IBM FlashSystem:

“The performance is really good. From an operations perspective, definitely the ease of use stands out. Compared to other products and other vendors, it’s much, much easier.”

A senior solutions architect at a tech services company shared how his company has benefitted from IBM FlashSystem:

“The V9000 incorporates both the Spectrum virtualization layer as well as flash technology. It does it in such a unique manner that it provides super-fast response times. There’s low latency for the customers. It’s very simple and easy.”

Joseph King, CTO at CAS Severn, suggested a way IBM FlashSystem could improve:

“We think that IBM has to continue to invest in additional data reduction capabilities, which are on their roadmap. Being able to use flash most efficiently, where the least amount of data is physically being stored on the V9000, is really where IBM needs to make additional investment. They are doing that.”

You can read more all-flash array reviews on IT Central Station.

 

 



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Packet Blast: Top Tech Blogs, June 2


We collect the top expert content in the infrastructure industry and fire it along the priority queue.



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Packet Blast: Top Tech Blogs, March 24


We collect the top expert content in the infrastructure community and fire it along the priority queue.



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Top 3 Disaster Recovery Mistakes


Considering the high cost of IT downtime, disaster recovery planning is critical for every enterprise. According to a 2016 IHS report, downtime costs North American companies $700 billion a year. For a typical mid-size company, the average cost was around $1 million, while a large enterprise lost more than $60 million on average, IHS found.

Yet even with the stakes so high, companies can fall into common pitfalls when it comes to disaster recovery planning to mitigate the impact of service outages. GS Khalsa, senior technical marketing manager at VMware, said that he sees organizations making the same three mistakes over and over again.

1. Not having a DR plan

In Khalsa’s opinion, by far the biggest mistake that companies make — and one of the most common — is failing to put together any sort of disaster recovery plan at all. He said that industry statistics indicate that up to 50% of organizations haven’t done any DR planning.

That’s unfortunate because preparing for a disaster doesn’t have to be as complicated or as costly as most organizations assume. “It doesn’t have to involve any purchases,” Khalsa said in an interview. “It doesn’t have to involve anything more than a discussion with the business that this is what our DR plan is.”

Even if companies decide to do nothing more than restore from their latest nightly backup, they should at least write that plan down so that they know what to expect and what to do in case of an emergency, he added.

2. Not testing the DR plan

Coming up with a plan is just the first step. Organizations also need a way to test the plan. Unfortunately, in a traditional, non-virtualized data center, there isn’t an easy, non-disruptive way to conduct a recovery test. As a result, most companies test “infrequently, if at all,” Khalsa said.

He pointed out that having a virtualized environment eases testing. Organizations can copy their VMs and test their recovery processes on an isolated network. That way they can see how long recovery will take and find potential problems without interrupting ongoing operations.

3. Not understanding the complexity of DR

Organizations also sometimes underestimate how much work it takes to recover from a backup. Khalsa explained that some organizations expect to be able to do their restores manually, which really isn’t feasible once you have more than about 10 or 20 VMs.

He noted that sometimes IT staff will write their own scripts to automate the recovery process, but even that can be problematic. “People forget that disasters don’t just impact systems, they also potentially impact people,” Khalsa said. The person who wrote the script may not be available to come into work following a disaster, which could hamper the recovery process.

Khalsa’s No. 1 tip for organizations involved in DR planning is for IT to communicate clearly with the business. Management and executives need to understand the recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO) options and make some decisions about the acceptable level of risk.

“More communication is better,” Khalsa said.

Hear more about disaster recovery planning from GS Khalsa live and in person at Interop ITX, where he will present, “Disaster Recovery In The Virtualized Data Center.” Register now for Interop ITX, May 15-19, in Las Vegas.



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