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IBM racks up the memory

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VMworld Video Blog While wandering the floor at the recently concluded VMworld 2010, we stopped by the IBM booth to take a look at their wares. We ran into an old pal of ours, Bob Zuber, and he walked us through their MAX 5 memory extension feature.

IBM racks up the memory

MAX 5 is essentially a separate board with 32 DIMM sockets that can be attached to either a four- or eight-socket IBM server via the Intel QPI (Quick Path Interconnect) and IBM’s own proprietary scalability interconnect. (X-Architecture is their fancy name for the custom chips that enable it.)

It’s interesting technology in that the entire memory space, including the memory on the MAX 5 board, is seen as a single large memory space and is usable by any VM running on the system. IBM says that systems with MAX 5 address the biggest problem in large-scale virtualization today: an acute shortage of memory.

According to the company, there are a lot of benefits that arise from using MAX 5 other than just running more VMs. Customers can save money on memory by purchasing a MAX 5 board and more lower-capacity (and lower cost) DIMMS.

They also make the case that software customers might save on software costs – assuming that the software in question is licensed by the socket – and that the extra performance yielded by more memory means they don’t need to move the packages to bigger systems. To me, this is more of a corner case; I don’t know how often this alignment of the stars happens in the real world.

What I am sure about is that flash memory is really fast. Bob shows us how they’re adding big heaps of flash memory to their systems – up to 16 SSDs in 50 or 200GB chunks. That’s quite a bit of speedy flash indeed. ®

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