Feeds

IBM deploys x64 battle waggon

Massive server virtualization targeted

Boost IT visibility and business value

When Intel was rolling its Nehalem-EX Xeon 7500 processors into position on the hills high above the x64 war last Spring, IBM kicked out two boxes and promised it had another one in the works.

In three weeks, the System x3690 X5 server - an armored personnel carrier compared to the System x3850 X5 tank and the HX5 blade attack copter - will take the field.

The System x3690 X5 uses IBM's own eX5 chipset, as the name suggests. So do the BladeCenter HX5 blade server (which supports two or four sockets) and the System x3850 X5, a four socket machine, which El Reg told you all about here.

Thanks for the memory

Both the BladeCenter HX5 and the x3850 X5 allow for a chassis equipped with only main memory to be linked through the eX5 chipset to allow for memory to be scaled up independently of processor sockets.

Each HX5 blade has 16 DDR3 memory slots and can have a Max5 memory extender with 24 additional memory slots, adding 192GB (using 8GB memory sticks) to the 128GB on the blade. The System x3850 has 64 memory slots, and the Max5 extender (which comes in a half-U form factor with 32 memory slots) can boost memory on this box by 50 per cent.

The System x3690 X5 server that begins shipping on August 23 supports the four-core, six-core, and eight core variants of the Xeon 7500s and their two-socket HPC brethren, the Xeon 6500s. You can get the lowdown on the Nehalem-EX processors here.

IBM is supporting all eight variants of the Nehalem-EX chips in the System x3690 X5, including the hottest 130 watt parts. The server has 32 memory slots, and with a special memory expansion card, customers can use very fat 16GB DDR3 memory sticks, boosting main memory up to 512GB inside of the chassis.

The memory cards used in the eX5 rack servers are based on Intel's scalable memory buffer architecture, which puts memory on daughter cards that slot into the system board. These cards have memory buffers to give them lots of bandwidth into the CPUs. IBM says that the System x3690 X5 design has four independent memory buses linking each socket to memory, giving 16GB/sec of memory bandwidth between the CPU and the buffered memory.

The Max5 memory expansion chassis for the x3690 X5 server has 32 memory slots, and that means in a 2.5U configuration, the System x3690 X5 server can deliver 1TB of main memory for two processor sockets, sporting 8, 12, or 16 cores. That is a heck of a lot of memory per core - exactly what customers who are looking to virtualize their servers and cut down on their footprints need.

The Max5 feature allows for memory scalability, but the FlexNode feature lets two x3690s to be glued together with a special connection cable that links both machines to the eX5 chipset, creating a four-socket symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) box that spans two 2U form factors. So in 5U of rack space, IBM can snap together a four-socket, 2TB behemoth.

IBM System x3690

IBM's System x3690 X5 Nehalem-EX workhorse

As you can see in the picture, the System x3690 X5 server has room for sixteen small form factor disk drives to be hot-plugged into the box (8TB max using 500GB disks). The server has four PCI-Express 2.0 slots (two x8 low-profile and two x8 standard slots), and up to four 675-watt power supplies.

A dual-port Gigabit Ethernet interface (from Broadcom) is on the system board and a dual-port 10 Gigabit Ethernet card with virtual fabric capabilities (from Emulex) is available. This latter adapter, which snaps onto the system board, has Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) capability, which IBM is in the process of certifying. IBM is also supporting 50GB micro-SATA flash disks in this server, which cost $999 a pop.

Windows and Linux onboard

The System x3690 X5 server supports Microsoft's original Windows Server 2008 as well as the R2 update - no Windows Server 2003, sorry. Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 and 11 are supported (but not SP1 yet) and Red Hat's Enterprise Linux 5 is there, too.

The Max5 memory extender is not supported with VMware's ESX Server 4.0 or ESXi 4.0 hypervisors, but the 4.1 release of the hypervisor, which was announced two weeks ago, does know about the Max5 memory extension used in the eX5 machines from Big Blue.

The base System x3690 comes with a single four-core E7520 processor, which spins at 1.86GHz, 8GB of memory, and no disk or operating system. This basic box costs $5,845.

With two of the eight-core X7550 processors, which clock at 2GHz, plus 16GB of memory, you're talking $13,475 in a base config. Beef that up to eight disk drives with RAID protection and 128GB of memory, then you are in for $30,812. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
The Return of BSOD: Does ANYONE trust Microsoft patches?
Sysadmins, you're either fighting fires or seen as incompetents now
Microsoft: Azure isn't ready for biz-critical apps … yet
Microsoft will move its own IT to the cloud to avoid $200m server bill
Oracle reveals 32-core, 10 BEEELLION-transistor SPARC M7
New chip scales to 1024 cores, 8192 threads 64 TB RAM, at speeds over 3.6GHz
Docker kicks KVM's butt in IBM tests
Big Blue finds containers are speedy, but may not have much room to improve
US regulators OK sale of IBM's x86 server biz to Lenovo
Now all that remains is for gov't offices to ban the boxes
Gartner's Special Report: Should you believe the hype?
Enough hot air to carry a balloon to the Moon
Flash could be CHEAPER than SAS DISK? Come off it, NetApp
Stats analysis reckons we'll hit that point in just three years
Dell The Man shrieks: 'We've got a Bitcoin order, we've got a Bitcoin order'
$50k of PowerEdge servers? That'll be 85 coins in digi-dosh
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.