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IBM flicks out HS22V Xeon blade

Sharpened for virtualization

Intelligent flash storage arrays

IBM has launched a new Xeon-based blade server for BladeCenter boxes that it says is tuned specifically to support virtualization hypervisors that in turn run virtual Linux or Windows instances.

What IBM means mostly is that the box has gobs of memory and fast and small flash drives for storage.

The single-wide, full-height HS22V blade has 18 DDR3 main memory slots, meaning it can support up to 144 GB for a two-socket Xeon 5500 blade. The Xeon 5500, also known as the "Gainestown" quad-core processor in the Nehalem-EP family of chips, was launched last March and is about to be refreshed with a six-core "Westmere-EP" variant that should provide roughly 50 per cent more oomph. But IBM has to sell what is on the X64 truck today, and the HS22V will no doubt sport Westmere-EP processors (presumably to be called the Xeon 5600s) before too long to match its large main memory.

This extra main memory, says IBM, allows the blade to support 50 per cent more virtual machines than the normal HS22 blades, which top out at 96 GB of main memory.

The HS22V blade supports the Xeon E5540 (80 watts, 8 MB cache, running at 2.53 GHz with 1 GHz main memory), the Xeon X5570 (95 watts, same 8 MB cache, and running at 2.93 GHz with 1.33 GHz main memory), and the Xeon E5506 (80 watts, 4 MB of cache, and running at 2.13 GHz with 800 MHz memory).

The blade also is configured with 1.8-inch, 50 GB Micro-SATA solid state disks, which are based on flash memory and consume a lot less electricity and throw off a lot less heat than a disk drive while also driving up high I/O throughput.

In terms of software, the HS22V blade supports VMware's ESX Server 3.5 and 4.0 hypervisors (and the embedded ESXi variants of these two) as well as the Xen hypervisors embedded inside of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11. While Windows Server 2008 in it many variants as well as RHEL 4 and 5 and SUSE Linux 10 and 11 are supported as guests atop this virtualized blade, Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisor is not certified for the blade; neither is the standalone XenServer variant of Xen from Citrix Systems or the Oracle VM distribution of Xen from Oracle.

All of these hypervisors will almost certainly work on the box, regardless of certification, but network and I/O drivers could be a wildcard.

The HS22V blade server will be available on March 19. The base machine with a single 2.53 GHz E5540 processor, 6 GB of memory, and the Micro-SATA drive costs $3,289; boosting the processor up to the 2.93 GHz X5570 drives the price up to $4,219. A base HS22 blade using the E5540 processor, but with only 4 GB of memory and a 600 GB 2.5-inch SATA drive costs $3,145; while the HS22 using the X5570 costs $4,075.

Clearly, IBM is not charging much of a premium for those extra six memory slots and is willing to make up some revenue selling the main memory, which costs around $1,000 for an 8 GB stick. The 4 GB sticks for this machine run to $235 and 2 GB sticks cost $125.

There is no reason to even bother with 1 GB sticks, which cost $85, at this point. Spend the extra money and get at least 4 GB sticks at this point. ®

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