by CIO Staff

IBM Finally Unveils Opteron Blades

Aug 02, 20063 mins

IBM has finally revealed details of its well-trailed new line of AMD Opteron-based servers, including a snap-in daughterboard that converts a blade from a two-way to a four-way device.

There are five new models aimed at high-performance business computing, said IBM senior server consultant Tikiri Wandarugala, which he described as a halfway house between HPC and standard business usage. He said markets such as the financial houses in the city of London would welcome it.

Big Blue claimed that the new systems will usher in a new era of cooler, more power-efficient blade servers, as Opterons offer more performance per watt than their Intel Xeon counterparts. The company heads the blade server sales charts leader and reckons that this will help it extend its lead over HP and Sun, both of which already sell extensive ranges of Opteron-based blade servers.

IBM categorized the servers as follows:

  • BladeCenter LS41: Enterprise-class scalable two-way to four-way blade; ideal for ERP, data marts, data warehouses, databases and HPC clusters.

  • BladeCenter LS21: Enterprise-class two-way blade optimized for performance computing; ideal for financial services, scientific, high-performance computing, databases.

  • System x3755: For mid-market, large enterprise customers, ideal for scientific computing, such as weather simulations and crash test analysis.

  • System x3655: Business performance server, ideal for database/ERP, business intelligence, IPTV and video-on-demand applications.

  • System x3455: High-performance compute node, ideal for scientific and technical computing, database and Linux clusters.

Power and cooling

IBM is continuing to address data center power and cooling issues, which Wandarugala said were the first thing every customer wanted to talk about. The company is bundling in with the new servers a power management application that it first unveiled a couple of months ago. IBM PowerExecutive allows IT admins to meter power usage and heat emissions, and cap the amount of power used by a single server or group of servers. In future, reckoned IBM, PowerExecutive will enable clients to develop power policies across groups of servers to reallocate energy resources on the fly.

IBM also previewed Thermal Diagnostics, a package to help IT managers identify and cure thermal issues in the data center. It allows clients to monitor heat emissions in the data center and determine their root causes, such as air-conditioning failures. According to IBM, the system periodically scans the data center to collect inventory, performance and temperature metrics. Software then builds a virtual model of the equipment and identifies a “most-likely scenario,” automatically diagnosing thermal problems and enabling other systems, such as PowerExecutive, IBM Director and service processors to respond to heat-related problems.

IBM server marketing manager Stuart McRae said that the announcement followed collaboration between AMD and IBM, which has already seen AMD licensing silicon-on-insulator processor manufacturing technology from Big Blue. SOI has been a key part of AMD’s ability to distance its Opterons’ superior performance per watt metric from that of the Intel Xeon. “We have smart IBM and AMD engineers working together in the same building,” said McRae. “They come up with cool stuff chatting at the watercooler.”

Wandarugala denied that this move was a precursor to IBM’s ditching Intel processors from its blade lines altogether.

-Manek Dubash, (London)

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