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IBM tweaks rack and blade servers

GPU blade still MIA, HPC clusters revved

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Today is IBM's big storage announcement day, as we report elsewhere, but the company also tweaked a bunch of servers and associated switching options.

The System x3250 M3 rack machine that is enhanced today, as well as the iDataPlex dx360 M3 rack-blade hybrid machine, were both announced back in the spring. But today they get memory and I/O enhancements and new CPU or GPU options, depending on the platform.

IBM's BladeCenter GPU expansion blade, which was previewed at the GPU Tech Conference two weeks ago, is not part of today's announcements. But it should have been.

The forthcoming GPU expansion blade houses a single Nvidia Tesla M2070 GPU co-processor, which has a custom heat sink and which plugs into a PCI-Express x16 slot on the expansion blade. The Xeon-based HS22 blade server and the expansion blades have expansion slots that allow the expansion blades and the HS22 CPU blade to be electronically linked, and according to IBM, up to four of the GPU expansion blades will be able to be snapped to a single HS22 blade for a five-wide HPC computing element.

The BladeCenter chassis is 14 blades wide, which means you can get three HS22 blades in the box, two of them with three GPU co-processors and one with four. (No, you can't hang one off the side of the chassis to make a balanced 15 blade configuration.) IBM has said that it will ship this blade in the fourth quarter, but there's no word on when it might be announced.

Speaking of GPUs, the iDataPlex dx360 M3 server has some tweaks related to GPUs. This blade-rack hybrid thingie was updated with Intel's six-core Xeon 5600s in May. That was also when IBM rolled out support in the 2U-high iDataPlex compute for Nvidia's Tesla M1060 (not unimpressive floating point oomph) and M2050 the fanless single-wide GPU co-processor.

The M2050 was also announced in May and sports the new Fermi GPUs and delivers 515 gigaflops of number-crunching power. The dx360 M3 could put two GPU-coprocessors and one compute element in a single 2U tray.

Today, IBM is allowing the M2070 fanless GPU co-processor into the dx360 M3 box. The M2070 is a double-wide card that is rated at the same 515 gigaflops, but has 6 GB of GDDR5 memory instead of the 3 GB on the M2050 card. IBM is also supporting a variant of this GPU called the M2070-Q, which has support for Quadro graphics drivers in the event that customers want to use the GPU co-processors as visualization engines instead of math engines.

With the M2050 and M2070 GPUs, the dx360 M3 machines can cram 49 teraflops of oomph into an iDataPlex rack. (The iDataPlex rack is not a normal 42U rack that is a little more than three feet deep, but is twice as wide and half as deep and allowing for IBM to be more efficient about cooling and therefore allowing it to cram more stuff into a data center than it can do with standard racks and servers.)

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