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IBM has added blade servers to the mix of systems it sells as part of a large Linux cluster offering targeted at users in scientific fields.

IBM has sold the eServer Cluster 1350 package for some time, including its x335 and x345 servers along with storage systems and software. Now, Big Blue will also offer up its BladeCenter systems, allowing users to mix blades with standard Intel-based servers to create the Linux cluster (SuSE preferred) of their choice.

The idea behind this type of product is to give customers a quicker path to high performance computing. IBM pre-packages the hardware, tests it out and then ships the kit off as a large system.

Other hardware vendors such as Sun Microsystems have started to roll out similar types of configurations. Sun plans to sell pre-configured clusters combining its Intel-based V60x systems with UltraSPARC-based low-end V210 Unix servers and Sun ONE Grid Engine software later this year.

While once locked away in laboratories, large Linux clusters have started to make their move into big business. They are still used for scientific computing type tasks but have been picked up by a broader audience.

Oil and gas companies, for example, purchase the Beowulf clusters to help churn through calculations used in exploration efforts.

IBM pointed to Arizona's Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) as a customer that purchased a 512-processor cluster running Linux for its life sciences research.

This customer made a bit of blunder earlier this year, admitting that IBM "essentially bought the business" via heavy hardware discounts.

The Cluster 1350 with BladeCenter systems will go on sale June 6. ®

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