Notes: Notes on HP BladeSystem Matrix / Virtual Connect / Flex Connect

I had to prepare some notes on the HP BladeSystem and the networks functions of the Flex-10 / Virtual Connect / FlexConnect this week. Nothing fantastic but I think they provide a quick over of the key features that I felt are relevant for someone who is heading in the virtualization deployment using blade server for the first time. Although the customer looked at Cisco UCS, they felt that HP BladeSystem worked better for them and hence the vendor choice.

HP BladeSystem Matrix / Virtual Connect / Flex Connect

HP BladeSystem Matrix is a complete solution that delivers on HP’s Converged Infrastructure strategy. Based on a shared services model, using pools of compute, storage, and network resources, Matrix is an ideal foundation for private cloud infrastructure. HP has built Matrix on the modular HP BladeSystem architecture, which integrates with partner technologies providing a proven, open platform for delivering IT services. The highly automated Matrix Operating Environment enables you to rapidly provision complex infrastructure services and adjust them to meet changing business demands. When combined with HP Business Technology Optimization software, Matrix extends automated provisioning to applications and includes application lifecycle management.

  • Matrix is for private cloud
  • It’s an automation tool
  • Does automated provisioning.
  • orchestration / administration

In a single Converged Infrastructure platform, Matrix integrates technologies from across the HP enterprise portfolio that have been proven in the marketplace to provide value in demanding datacenter environments. Matrix also incorporates the offerings of leading application, management, network, and storage partners, so that the solution fits seamlessly into diverse customer environments and works with all traditional application workloads

  • Matrix support HP products first, and other peoples products second.
    • But only certain other peoples products.

Virtual Connect modules in the BladeSystem enclosure enable Matrix to connect to any standard Ethernet network or Fibre Channel fabric

  • Uses Virtual Connect to for network connectivity.
  • This includes the Virtual Connect FlexFabric and Virtual Connect Flex-10 and Fibre Channel.

HP Virtual Connect FlexFabric

HP Virtual Connect FlexFabric 10Gb/24-port Modules are the simplest, most converged and flexible way to connect virtualized server blades to any data or storage network. VC FlexFabric modules eliminate up to 95% of network sprawl at the server edge with one device that converges traffic inside enclosures and directly connects to LANs and SANs.

Using Flex-10 technology with Fibre Channel over Ethernet and Accelerated iSCSI, these modules converge traffic over high speed 10 Gb connections to servers with HP FlexFabric Adapters. Each module provides 4 adjustable connections (3 data and 1 storage or all data) to each 10 Gb server port.

VC FlexFabric modules avoid the confusion of traditional and other converged network solutions by eliminating the need for multiple Ethernet and Fibre Channel switches, extension modules, cables & software licenses. Also, Virtual Connect wire-once connection management is built-in enabling server adds, moves & replacement in minutes instead of days or weeks.

2 VC FlexFabric modules connect an enclosure of HP server blades to both data and storage networks eliminating multiple switches, cards, and cables.

  • One flexible interconnect connects to any network: One device supports most common data center network protocols: Ethernet, Fibre Channel, iSCSI.
  • Fine-tune performance: Fine-tune the performance of each data and storage connection to meet the needs of each virtual machine and workload.
  • Optimized for hypervisor i/o requirements: With Flex-10 two modules provide 6 FlexNIC and 2 FlexHBA connections to each server, the best practice network configuration for most hypervisors. Increase storage connection performance: Connect to servers using full hardware offload of iSCSI and FCoE protocol processing minimizing the impact on host CPU performance. Ultra-fast 10 Gb server-to-server performance: Perform ultra-fast communication between virtual server hosts and moves and recoveries with hardware-based 10 Gb performance.

How are Virtual Connect FlexFabric Modules different from Virtual Connect Flex-10 modules?

  • Both products use Flex-10 to allow each 10Gb server port to be carved up into four connections with adjustable bandwidth for each. However, when a VC FlexFabric Module is connected to a server blade with an HP FlexFabric Adapter, each 10Gb connection can carry storage and data traffic.
  • A pair of HP VC FlexFabric Modules can provide one redundant Fibre Channel or accelerated iSCSI connection and up to three redundant data connections to each server.
  • VC Flex-10 modules can also support a accelerated iSCSI connection one 10Gb ports when connected to an HP FlexFabric adapter.

HP VC & Flex modules in the Chassis

Caption Text.(Click for a full size image)

Physical Port Allocation

  • 16 configurable downlink ports on the midplane I.e. To the server blades in a combination of the 10GbE, Flex10, Flex-10/FCoE and Flex-10/iSCSI (note iSCSI & FCoE mutually exclusive)
  • 2 x 10GB crosslinks for adjacent / redundant FlexFabric module ( via the midplane)
  • Mgmt connections to Onboard Administrator.
  • 8 external ports in two blocks of four.
  • Four ports (X1-X4) either 2/4/8GB FC or 10GbE Ethernet. Ethernet stacking. No FC stacking.
  • Four ports (X5-X8) 1/10GbE

Virtual Connect Flex-10

Simplify and make your data center change-ready. The HP Virtual Connect Flex-10 10Gb Ethernet Module for the c-Class BladeSystem is the simplest, most flexible connection to your networks. The Virtual Connect Flex-10 Ethernet Module is a new class of blade interconnect that simplifies server connections by cleanly separating the server enclosure from LAN, simplifies networks by reducing cables without adding switches to manage, allows you to change servers in just minutes, not days, and tailors network connections and speeds based on application needs. HP Flex-10 technology significantly reduces infrastructure costs by increasing the number of NICs per connection without adding extra blade I/O modules, and reducing cabling uplinks to the data center network. The HP Virtual Connect Flex-10 10Gb Ethernet Module for c-Class BladeSystem is an innovative, new class of integrated interconnects from HP.

HP Virtual Connect Flex-10 technology: Convergence with FlexFabric components

HP Virtual Connect (VC) Flex-10 technology is a hardware-based solution that lets you split a 10 Gb/s server network connection into four variable partitions1. Flex-10 technology lets you replace multiple lower bandwidth physical NIC ports with a single Flex-10 port. This reduces management requirements, the number of NICs and interconnect modules needed, and power and operational costs.


  • 16 x 10Gb downlinks to server blades as pseudo-NICs using the mid plane.
  • 2 x 10Gb cross connects for redundancy and stacking using the mmid place
  • 1 x 10Gb copper uplinks CX-4 for stacking to Virtual Connect Modules or uplinking to data center switches
  • 8 x 10Gb SR, LR, or LRM fiber and copper SFP+ uplinks
  • Supports up to 4 FlexNICs per 10Gb server connections.
  • Each FlexNIC is recognized by the server as a PCI-e physical function device with customizable speeds from 100Mb to 10Gb.
  • Line Rate, full-duplex 240Gbps bridging fabric ( there are
  • 1.5 µs latency
  • MTU up to 9216 Bytes – Jumbo Frames (note enabled by default)
  • Configurable up to 8192 MAC addresses and 1000 IGMP groups
  • VLAN Tagging, Pass-Thru and Link Aggregation supported on all uplinks


  1. Four partitions doesn’t seem enough to me. Is that my lack of experience or is that a real issue.