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IBM unloads Nehalem towers, clusters

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It's Dynamic Infrastructure blitz week at Big Blue. In a kicking out new entry and midrange rack servers and funky new blade server based on its Power6+ chips and a bunch of storage enhancements and Fibre Channel over Ethernet and other networking products rebadged from Brocade, IBM previewed two upcoming x64 tower servers and kicked out some pre-configured supercomputer clusters to round out its x64 portfolio.

Back on March 30, when Intel launched the quad-core "Nehalem EP" Xeon 5500 chips to much fanfare, IBM launched two rack servers (the System x3550 M2 and the x3650 M2), the HS22 blade server, and a hybrid storage-server blade in its custom iDataPlex computing environment. All of the machines were two-socket servers, since the Nehalem EP was designed for two-socket servers.

The two machines that IBM is previewing, which will be available later this quarter, are the System x3400 M2 and the x3500 M2. Both are tower servers that support the dual-core and quad-core Nehalem EP chips. They appear to be tower variants of the rack servers that IBM announced back at the end of March, but the feeds and speeds of the machines have not been divulged. Presumably, IBM did not want its SMB customers and channel partners to worry that it had forgotten that SMB shops like tower (not rack or blade) machines.

IBM's pre-configured cluster offering, known as the Cluster 1350, and its System x iDataPlex custom-built, super-dense rack servers also got some tweaks this week. First of all, various QLogic quad-data rate InfiniBand switches, spine modules, and leaf modules have been added to both Cluster 1350 and iDataPlex configurations. These include the 36-port QLogic 12200 and 12300 switches, the 432-port 12800-180 switch, and the 864-port 12800-360 switch. Single- and dual-port QDR InfiniBand host channel adapters from Mellanox are also added to these configured systems, as are the Voltaire 36-port 2036 dual data rate InfiniBand switch and the Blade Network Technology 24-port G8124F/R 10 Gigabit Ethernet switch.

In terms of server hardware, the Cluster 1350 is not one particular configuration so much as it is the ability to pick among a bunch of different System x servers (be they blade, rack, or iDataPlex) and have IBM ship a pre-configured cluster based on set configurations of those server nodes. IBM charges a bit extra for integrating the components, which is a net gain for data centers that don't want to fuss with this tedious task.

Anyway, with this week's announcement, the Nehalem EP servers announced in March - the x3550 M2 and x3650 M2 racks, the HS22 blade, and the dx360 M2 hybrid - can all be the foundation of a Cluster 1350. IBM can put Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5, Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10, or Microsoft Windows HPC Server 2008. On top of that, IBM adds its xCAT (that's short for Extreme Cluster Administration Toolkit) and can also toss on its General Parallel File System for Linux or Moab's Adaptive HPC Suite and Adaptive Computing Suite tools. The Cluster 1350 can scale up to 1,024 compute nodes with 64 storage nodes. The price includes the installation of the hardware and a three-year warranty on the hardware.

IBM also killed off its first generation of iDataPlex iron, so now you can only buy ones with the most recent x64 processors. (Which is all you want to do anyway).

In addition to the server announcements, IBM said that it had announced a 2.5-inch 31.4 solid state disk for the System x and BladeCenter lines, which burns about 2 watts. The unit, which plugs into a SATA port on the machines, is rated at just over 5,000 I/O operations per second (IOPS) on random reads using 4K blocks of data. It will be available on May 11, and costs $899.

As part of the DI blitz, IBM also announced two appliances based on System x iron, called the Tivoli Foundations Application Manager and IBM Tivoli Foundations Service Manager, which are used for system and application monitoring and service request management respectively and are "suited for small and mid-sized clients looking to reduce costs, manage risks, and improve their service quality," according to IBM.

Like the previewed x64 tower servers above, IBM didn't provide any feeds and speeds for these appliances. Further on the Tivoli front, Big Blue is talking up its ability to manage and securely link to clouds using tweaked Tivoli tools. Specifically, IBM is talking about a bundle called the IBM Service Management Center for Cloud Computing, which includes Tivoli Identity and Access Assurance, Tivoli Data and Application Security, and Tivoli Security Management for z/OS for Cloud Environments. ®

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