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IBM punts two racks, a blade, and a hybrid thingy

Enterprise avant garde

California competition

IBM had not only get the 8 GB DIMMs out the door, but better get 16 GB DIMMs out there if it wants the HS22 to compete with California. At 192 GB of main memory, IBM can make a compelling case. Of course, Cisco is expected to use cheaper and lower capacity DDR3 DIMMs and just put more of them on the blade, tricking the Intel chipsets into thinking it is addressing less memory when it isn't thanks to the ASIC Cisco has designed. Even as IBM and other blade server makers adopt denser DDR3 main memory, Cisco's memory extension ASIC uses memory economics in Cisco's favor - provided that ASIC works well and doesn't cost much to make.

Speaking of virtualization, the HS22 blade server from IBM has an internal flash drive port, which can be outfitted with a 2 GB flash drive configured with VMware's ESXi skinny hypervisor. The blade has two hot-swap 2.5-inch disk bays, which can be populated with SAS drives (73 GB, 147 GB, and 300 GB at 10K RPM and 73 GB and 147 GB at 15K RPM), with SATA drives (300 GB at 10K RPM), or an SSD (weighing in at 31.4 GB).

The HS22 blade has two PCI-Express x8 slots, and has a two-port Gigabit Ethernet link standard, with up to 12 ports per blade possible with expansion cards. The HS22 also has expansion cards to deliver 10 Gigabit Ethernet and quad-data rate (40 Gb/sec) InfiniBand links. iSCSI, 8 Gb/sec Fibre Channel, and 6 Gb/sec SAS connectivity are available to reach out to disk arrays, too.

In terms of operating systems, the HS22 blade server supports Windows Server 2003 R1 and R2 as well as Windows Server 2008; Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4.7 and 5.3; SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10; and Solaris 10 Unix. Only VMware's current ESX Server 3.5 and ESXi 3.5 hypervisors are supported on this blade.

IBM is deploying the Nehalem EP processors in a variety of its iDataplex custom-designed servers for hyperscale data centers. With this launch, the Nehalem chips are being deployed in four different configurations: a compute node, an I/O node, and two storage nodes.

Like the other IBM machines, the iDataplex nodes are based on Intel's 5520 chipset. IBM is supporting the 2.26 GHz L5520 (with a 60 watt TDP), the 2 GHz E5504, 2.26 GHz E5520, and 2.53 GHz E5540 (80 watt TDP), and the 2.67 GHz X5550, 2.86 GHz X5560, and 2.93 GHz X5570 (all 95 watt TDP) Nehalem chips in these systems. The iDataplex motherboard has 16 DDR3 DIMM slots, which support from 1GB to 4 GB DIMMs right now, for a maximum of 64 GB of main memory (the same 800 MHz, 1.07 GHz, and 1.33 GHz speeds as in the HS22 blade server). When 8 GB DIMMs are available in the third quarter, iDataplex customers will be able to plunk 128 GB of memory into these nodes.

IBM iDataplex

iDataplex (Click to Enlarge)

The 2U iDataplex compute node puts two of these Nehalem servers stacked atop each other into a single chassis, each with two 2.5-inch SAS drives, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, and a single PCI-Express 2.0 x16 slot. The I/O server is a single server inside the same chassis, but it has two 3.5-inch SAS or SATA drives plus three PCI-Express 2.0 x16 slots.

The 2U storage server variant of the iDataplex node has five 3.5-inch drives and a single PCI-Express 2.0 x16 slot. For customers who need an even fatter storage node, IBM takes the bottom half of the 2U storage server and stretches the box to 3Us in height, and then puts in another dozen 3.5-inch hot-swap SAS or SATA drives (for a total of 13), including that single PCI-Express 2.0 x16 peripheral slot. Any of these iDataplex nodes can support the 31.4 GB SSD sold with the HS22 blade server.

Yost says that the new Nehalem machines will be priced at about the same price points as their predecessors in the IBM lineup using quad-core Harpertown chips. In some cases, because of the richness of the configurations, prices will even rise. (Well, at list price, anyway. We'll see about street prices).

The HS22 has been shipping to selected customers already, and will be generally available on March 31. The new Nehalem rack servers have also been going out to selected customers since March began, but will not be generally available until the end of April. The iDataplex nodes have seen some early testing customers, too, but will not be available until May. Specific pricing information will not be released on this gear until it ships. ®

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