3 More Things I like about the HP C3000 Blades

Last week I got my hands on yet another HP C3000 Blade system and spent a bit of time trying out some of the features and functionality provided via the Onboard Administrator (OA). The OA is a powerful web based management interface to the c3000 and all the attached blades.

One of the nicest features is the graphical view of the devices in the enclosure. At a glance you can tell if all your power supplies are connected, how much load they are under and even view a power consumption over time. You can also view cooling fans, check the internal temperature and overall cooling performance. Unplugging one fan causes the system to rebalance the cooling and you can watch it happen via the OA.

Asset management is made easy by being able to quickly identify any device in the enclosure and view serial numbers and part numbers. This is particularly useful when managing the c3000 from a remote location. Custom asset tags can be assigned to devices allowing easy tracking in your asset managment system.

Last and certainly not least is the small LCD display used to configure the initial enclosure settings is colour coded. Insert your blades and then check the display and it will assist you with the basic configuration. The screen itself changes colour to indicate configuration issues and then tells you how to fix it e.g. iLO not configured on a device, incorrectly inserted blades or power supply failure.

Of course I like quite a few other things about blade technology including reduced cabling, savings on the power bill, nice solid design, hot swap fans and power, flexible networking options and performance, HP ICE and iLO remote console. More on that later…


Configuring c3000 Blade Enclosure Onboard Administrator

Judging from the large number of search engine referrals over the past few days you may need help with configuring c3000’s. Once  you have unpacked a c3000, attached various modules and turned on the power is how do you configure the enclosure. Configuration is done via the Onboard Administrator (OA) web interface. Here are the basic steps:

  • Connect the the OA/iLO port on the back of the enclosure to you LAN
  • Using the small LCD console on the front of the enclosure, assign an IP address for OA
  • Use a web browser to connect to the OA’s IP address assigned above (HTTPS)
  • Login with username : Administrator           (the A is a capital)
  • Password is attached to a paper tag on the front of the enclosure

Once you have logged, you are able to configure many aspects of the enclosure and attached blades with iLO.

See this article for a more detailed description of the c3000 OA

HP BL460c Blade overview

I have written a couple of articles about the HP c3000 Blade Enclosure in this blog which should give you an overview of the basic infrastructure, but what about the blade servers themselves? HP have a wide range of Blades that can be slotted into the c3000 or C7000 enclosures. The BL460c is a great mid-range blade that is in my opinion one of the best options in the range.

The BL460c is the blade equivalent of the DL380 rack mount server and is a good choice if comparing blade vs rack mount server offerings from HP. If storage is required then it is important to factor either a direct attached storage option or SAN when doing the comparision.


  • CPU – single or dual Intel Xeon dual or quad core CPU’s.
  • RAM – up to 64GB in 8 DIMM slots
  • 2 x Small Form Factor hot swap SAS or SATA drives
  • 2 x mezzanine expansion slots
  • 2 x 1Gbit Ethernet adapters with TOE and iSCSI support
  • 1 x iLO remote management port
  • occupies a single blade slot
  • Supports Windows, RHEL, SuSE, Netware, Solaris, VMWare and HP Citrix Essentials for XenServer

Performance and scalability

The BL460c offers impressive scalability thanks to a large number of CPU options and an impressive RAM limit of 64GB. Mezzanine card options include single and dual headed NIC’s, 10Gbit Ethernet and Fibre Channel adapters. An SB40 direct attached storage blade can be installed to provide a further 6 small form factor SATA or SAS drives.


The BL460c features an internal USB2 port which can be used to boot VMware ESXi from a USB key (download your own or purchase a key from HP) allowing the BL460c to run virtual machines in diskless configuration by using a SAN for the disk images. The BL460c is also certified to run Microsoft Hyper-V and Citrix Zenserver.

Microsoft Storage Server

HP sell a Blade Storage Solution which bundles a BL460c with an SB600c storage blade and Microsoft Storage Server 2003. This solutions occupies 2 blade slots and provides up to 1.5TB of storage accessible via iSCSI.

Summing up

I have installed and managed many HP blade servers over the past few years. The BL460c is a great performer whether it is running Essential Business Server 2008, ESXi or Windows 2003 Enterprise connected to EVA SAN via Fibre Channel. It is a significant improvement on the previous generation HP Blades and I think it will remain a good work horse well into the future.

If you prefer AMD over Intel, then the BL465c is well worth a look. It is a very similar server but built around AMD technology. Lower end BL260c blades don’t support hot swap drives or the internal USB port and has a standard 1 year warranty vs the 3 year warranty that is included with the BL460c. Higher end blades are available from HP, but for most the BL460c will be offer more than enough features at a price point similar to the DL380 rack mount server.

HP BL460c World Wide Quick Specs
HP c3000 Blade Enclosure Posts on this blog

HP C3000 Blade Enclosure Onboard Administrator

A wide range of factors contribute to the cost of any IT Infrastructure solution. One of the hidden costs is the time it takes to identify and fix a fault and downtime or reduced performance that occurs during this process. I read recently that most outages are actually caused by the people whose job includes insuring uptime is maintained! Imagine for a minute the scenario where you are installing updates and accidently shutdown rather than restarting or a cooling fan fails in a server at a remote location. I’ll come back to these scenarios later.

The Onboard Administrator (OA) and Integrated Lights Out (iLO) technologies are two handy tools for administrators who need to keep systems running efficiently remotely. They provide remote management of all aspects of the C3000 or C7000 Enclosure and the Blades it houses. Both technologies can be accessed via a web interface, OA managing the enclosure itself and iLO managing individual blades.

OA allows complete configuration of the Blade Enclosure including presentation of the integrated DVD to specific blades, SNMP configuration, power management and configuration of various aspects of the enclosure.  Email alerts can be configured to provide awareness of hardware faults or issues e.g. failed cooling fans and power warnings. OA also provides information on the enclosure configuration via a graphic blade view and inventory feature showing part numbers and serial numbers of all devices within the enclosure including Blades.

iLO provides a remote console allowing remote access to Blades and the ability to access the ROM based setup, controller ROM setups and even install an Operating System. iLO also features virtual power buttons making it possible to power Blades off and on remotely. OA includes a wizard to setup multiple iLO devices within the enclosure reducing setup time. Access via SSH and SSL are supported. A license key must be purchased to access some of the advanced features.

Advanced diagnostic tools are a key feature of these technologies. iLO features the ability to review a video of the servers last boot and last reported fault. These features combined with part and serial numbers help accelerate the troubleshooting and warranty replacement processes.

Getting back to the issues above, iLO can be used to hit the power button remotely and bring an accidently shutdown server back to life. A failed cooling fan is the sort of thing that can cause havoc if it isn’t replaced is often not visible to the administrator, and email alert from OA and then a quick check via the web interface and a replacement part can be ordered without needing to go onsite.

OA is included in both C3000 and C7000 series Blade Enclosures. iLO technology is included in a range of HP Server including DL series rack mount servers and ML series tower servers.

HP C3000 Blade Overview

The HP C3000 is an entry level Blade System with a price point that allows it to compete with rack mount servers for medium sized businesses. Blades offer better management, lower power consumption, need less space and help reduce the cabling nightmare in your computer room. Here is a brief overview of the system.

C3000 Enclosure

HP C3000 enclosure is the base component of the blade system with slots for up to 8 blades, shared power, shared cooling and high performance interconnect bus. In addition to 8 Blade slots and connectivity slots for a range of ethernet and fibre interconnect modules and switches. An optional KVM modules allows the enclosure to connect to an external KVM switch for local access, while iLO2 provides remote connectivity to blades.The enclosure itself is either a 6U rack mounted box or a wheel mounted unit.

The Blade enclosure can be managed using the HP Online Administrator web interface which proves a graphical view of the enclosure and all components, allows configuration and management of enclosure components, firmware updates and email alerting. This combined with iLO2 gives you complete remote management of the entire enclosure and components including the ability to power servers on from cold.

Blade Options

A wide range of Intel and AMD based blade server options are available ranging from the low end SATA based BL200 series, mid-range SAS based BL400 series and high end blades for those needing a great processing power and memory support.


Ethernet pass-thru and switch modules are available in both 1Gbit and 10Gbit speeds, providing options for very high performance networking. Optional mezzanine cards for the blade servers support up to 4 NIC’s per server.

Fibre Channel modules are available from both CISCO and Brocade support up to 8GBit FC. Blades must have an optional FC HBA mezzanine card to utilise these modules. This option will appeal to those wanting to connect the c3000 to a SAN solution like the HP MSA2000FC or EVA series SAN’s.

The interconnect bus on the enclosure has enormous bandwidth and won’t be a bottleneck for networking.


Blade slots are paired and an optional storage blade can be inserted into a adjacent slot to any blade to provide direct attached storage providing up to 6 SATA or SAS drives (2.5inch) which can be configured in a RAID array using HP’s Array Configuration Utility.

A low end iSCSI SAN solution is available in the form of the SB600c Storageblade. This blade takes up two slots, 1 contains a BL460C running Windows 2003 Storage Server and the second slot containing the storage blade detailed above. Window StorageServer allows access to the storage in several ways include iSCSI. HP also have a storage appliance option which moves the supporting StorageServer software from a dedicated blade to a Virtual Machine.

A tape blade is available containing an LTO3 tape drive allowing tape backup within the enclosure.

Other options

If the C3000 isn’t large enough, the C7000 option provides 16 Blade slots in 10U of rack space.

A number of blades support VMWare ESXi booting from an internal USB key with the option of using SB600c iSCSI targets to store disk images.

Installing EBS 2008 on HP C3000 Blades
HP Blade Product Catalog

Installing EBS 2008 on HP c3000 Blade System

Recently I was lucky enough to get my hands on an HP c3000 Blade Enclosure with 2 x BL460c and 2 x BL260c Blades and the job to install EBS 2008. The BL460’s where configured with 1 x Quad Xeon 2.66Mhz, 8GB RAM and SAS Drives. BL260’s where configured with 1 x Quad Xeon 2.66Mhz, 4GB RAM and SATA drives.

The c3000 Blade Enclosure comes in two versions, a wheel mounted free standing model or a 6U rack mounted version. Both versions can hold 8 blades which can be mixed and match to suit your needs.

The first thing that you notice is these things are very solid, the empty enclosure is over 54kgs. A small popout LCD console allows you to configure various console features. The enclosure has upto 6 cooling fans and 6 power supplies and an integrated DVD drive.

EBS 2008 Installation process

This installation was a fresh install. Other options allow migration from older server environments.

The first step is to run the preparation tools either on the network you are migrating or on a Vista PC. This generates and XML file used later in the installation.

Blades a slotted into the enclosure turned on and iLO configured (must be done before you can access in the integrated DVD). Network cables were connected to a switch (must be a gigabit switch if you have a Gigabit pass-thru module).

I ended up using an external DVD drive for the installation as the integrated DVD is extremely slow due to the bus that connects it to the enclosure. I strongly recommend you don’t use the integrated DVD for the install. It was 5 times slower than my external Sony USB DVD drive that was connected via the USB connect on the front of the blades.

HP provide a “Smart Start” CD with the Blades however this can’t be used to install EBS 2008 (I tested Smart Start 8.15). Insert the first EBS DVD, boot up and follow the onscreen prompts. This process goes for quiet some time, prompting you to boot up the Security Server from the next disk and finally the Messaging Server. The only real issue during this phase was the RAID driver for the BL260c, the HP support page for this server didn’t include the right driver. After a bit of hunting around I found that the 64bit driver for the HP ML150G5 SATA-RAID was the right one!

Once the base installation is complete,  an installation guide on the Management Server steps you through the procedure for configuring various aspects of the network environment. Everything from setting up external DNS records, email domains, agents for SCE 2007 etc.

Following the installation I also installed HP’s PSP 8.15 from the Smart Start CD kit. SNMP had to be installed on the servers to ensure PSP 8.15 installed fully.

At this point all that was left to do was create user accounts, migrate data, create some group policies, install printers, configure firewall, deploy SCE 2007 agents and test everything.

End result

The installation process was mostly painless and once you learn the basics of working with blades is enjoyable too. EBS 2008 installed with ease once the RAID driver issue was resolved on the BL260’s.

I have plenty of experience installing the various packages that make up EBS 2008 in the “standard” server versions that have been around for some time. EBS 2008 is pretty good at getting the basic install in and configured correctly and the process is definitely faster than manually installing all the included products (and you know it is going to be right).

The c3000 Blade system performance very well and has plenty of room for growth. Storage modules, iSCSI SAN or an external iSCSI or Fibre attached MSA 2000 SAN provide plenty of storage. That combined with lower power consumption (30% less than rack mount servers), reduced cabling and compact design make the c3000 a must consider item for the medium size businesses.