VMware made very clear that all the changes were motivated by the feedbacks they have received: Continue reading
As you no doubt heard by now, VMware has announced a new version of vSphere along with some new or improved features however, this post will not highlight these features. In this post, I want to talk about what did not improve – the licensing. Continue reading
UPDATED 11:30 a.m. EST (4/6/11) – Intel announced today the next version of their 4 socket chipset, known as “E7”. Previously known with the codename of Westmere EX, the newly released Xeon 7600 will be rebranded as the Intel Xeon E7. Continue reading
Revised with corrections 3/1/2011 10:29 a.m. (EST)
Almost a year ago, I wrote an article highlighting the 4 socket blade server offerings. At that time, the offerings were very slim, but over the past 11 months, that blog post has received the most hits, so I figured it’s time to revise the article. In today’s post, I’ll review the 4 socket Intel and AMD blade servers that are currently on the market. Yes, I know I’ll have to revise this again in a few weeks, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. Continue reading
Thanks to fellow blogger, M. Sean McGee (http://www.mseanmcgee.com/) I was alerted to the fact that Cisco announced on today, Sept. 14, their 13th blade server to the UCS family – the Cisco UCS B230 M1.
This newest addition performs a few tricks that no other vendor has been able to perform. Continue reading
Updated 5/24/2010 – I’ve received some comments about expandability and I’ve received a correction about the speed of Dell’s memory, so I’ve updated this post. You’ll find the corrections / additions below in GREEN.
Since I’ve received a lot of comments from my post on the Dell FlexMem Bridge technology, I thought I would do an unbiased comparison between Dell’s FlexMem Bridge technology (via the PowerEdge 11G M910 blade server) vs IBM’s MAX5 + HX5 blade server offering. In summary both offerings provide the Intel Xeon 7500 CPU plus the ability to add “extended memory” offering value for virtualization, databases and any other workloads that benefit from large amounts of memory. Continue reading
Cisco recently announced their first blade offering with the Intel Xeon 7500 processor, known as the “Cisco UCS B440-M1 High-Performance Blade Server.” This new blade is a full-width blade that offers 2 – 4 Xeon 7500 processors and 32 memory slots, for up to 256GB RAM, as well as 4 hot-swap drive bays. Since the server is a full-width blade, it will have the capability to handle 2 dual-port mezzanine cards for up to 40 Gbps I/O per blade.
Each Cisco UCS 5108 Blade Server Chassis can house up to four B440 M1 servers (maximum 160 per Unified Computing System).
How Does It Compare to the Competition?
Since I like to talk about all of the major blade server vendors, I thought I’d take a look at how the new Cisco B440 M1 compares to IBM and Dell. (HP has not yet announced their Intel Xeon 7500 offering.)
Both Cisco and Dell offer models with 2 – 4 Xeon 7500 CPUs as standard. They each have variations on speeds – Dell has 9 processor speed offerings; Cisco hasn’t released their speeds and IBM’s BladeCenter HX5 blade server will have 5 processor speed offerings initially. With all 3 vendors’ blades, however, IBM’s blade server is the only one that is designed to scale from 2 CPUs to 4 CPUs by connecting 2 x HX5 blade servers. Along with this comes their “FlexNode” technology that enables users to have the 4 processor blade system to split back into 2 x 2 processor systems at specific points during the day. Although not announced, and purely my speculation, IBM’s design also leads to a possible future capability of connecting 4 x 2 processor HX5’s for an 8-way design. Since each of the vendors offer up to 4 x Xeon 7500’s, I’m going to give the advantage in this category to IBM. WINNER: IBM
Both IBM and Cisco are offering 32 DIMM slots with their blade solutions, however they are not certifying the use of 16GB DIMMs – only 4GB and 8GB DIMMs, therefore their offering only scales to 256GB of RAM. Dell claims to offers 512GB DIMM capacity on their the PowerEdge 11G M910 blade server, however that is using 16GB DIMMs. REalistically, I think the M910 would only be used with 8GB DIMMs, so Dell’s design would equal IBM and Cisco’s. I’m not sure who has the money to buy 16GB DIMMs, but if they do – WINNER: Dell (or a TIE)
As previously mentioned, Cisco’s B440-M1 blade server is a “full-width” blade so 4 will fit into a 6U high UCS5100 chassis. Theoretically, you could fit 7 x UCS5100 blade chassis into a rack, which would equal a total of 28 x B440-M1’s per 42U rack.Overall, Cisco’s new offering is a nice addition to their existing blade portfolio. While IBM has some interesting innovation in CPU scalability and Dell appears to have the overall advantage from a server density, Cisco leads the management front.
Dell’s PowerEdge 11G M910 blade server is a “full-height” blade, so 8 will fit into a 10u high M1000e chassis. This means that 4 x M1000e chassis would fit into a 42u rack, so 32 x Dell PowerEdge M910 blade servers should fit into a 42u rack.
IBM’s BladeCenter HX5 blade server is a single slot blade server, however to make it a 4 processor blade, it would take up 2 server slots. The BladeCenter H has 14 server slots, so that makes the IBM solution capable of holding 7 x 4 processor HX5 blade servers per chassis. Since the chassis is a 9u high chassis, you can only fit 4 into a 42u rack, therefore you would be able to fit a total of 28 IBM HX5 (4 processor) servers into a 42u rack.
The final category I’ll look at is the management. Both Dell and IBM have management controllers built into their chassis, so management of a lot of chassis as described above in the maximum server / rack scenarios could add some additional burden. Cisco’s design, however, allows for the management to be performed through the UCS 6100 Fabric Interconnect modules. In fact, up to 40 chassis could be managed by 1 pair of 6100’s. There are additional features this design offers, but for the sake of this discussion, I’m calling WINNER: Cisco.
Cisco’s UCS B440 M1 is expected to ship in the June time frame. Pricing is not yet available. For more information, please visit Cisco’s UCS web site at http://www.cisco.com/en/US/products/ps10921/index.html.
(Updated 4/22/2010 at 2:44 p.m.)
IBM officially announced the HX5 on Tuesday, so I’m going to take the liberty to dig a little deeper in providing details on the blade server. I previously provided a high-level overview of the blade server on this post, so now I want to get a little more technical, courtesy of IBM. It is my understanding that the “general availability” of this server will be in the mid-June time frame, however that is subject to change without notice.
Below is the details of the actual block diagram of the HX5. There’s no secrets here, as they’re using the Intel Xeon 6500 and 7500 chipsets that I blogged about previously.
As previously mentioned, the value that the IBM HX5 blade server brings is scalability. A user has the ability to buy a single blade server with 2 CPUs and 16 DIMMs, then expand it to 40 DIMMs with a 24 DIMM MAX 5 memory blade. OR, in the near future, a user could combine 2 x HX5 servers to make a 4 CPU server with 32 DIMMs, or add a MAX5 memory DIMM to each server and have a 4 CPU server with 80 DIMMs.
The diagrams below provide a more technical view of the the HX5 + MAX5 configs. Note, the “sideplanes” referenced below are actualy the “scale connector“. As a reminder, this connector will physically connect 2 HX5 servers on the tops of the servers, allowing the internal communications to extend to each others nodes. The easiest way to think of this is like a Lego . It will allow a HX5 or a MAX5 to be connected together. There will be a 2 connector, a 3 connector and a 4 connector offering.
(Updated) Since the original posting, IBM released the “eX5 Porfolio Technical Overview: IBM System x3850 X5 and IBM BladeCenter HX5” so I encourage you to go download it and give it a good read. David’s Redbook team always does a great job answering all the questions you might have about an IBM server inside those documents.
If there’s something about the IBM BladeCenter HX5 you want to know about, let me know in the comments below and I’ll see what I can do.
Thanks for reading!
IMPORTANT NOTE – I updated this blog post on Feb. 28, 2011 with better details. To view the updated blog post, please go to:
Original Post (March 10, 2010):
As the Intel Nehalem EX processor is a couple of weeks away, I wonder what impact it will have in the blade server market. I’ve been talking about IBM’s HX5 blade server for several months now, so it is very clear that the blade server vendors will be developing blades that will have some iteration of the Xeon 7500 processor. In fact, I’ve had several people confirm on Twitter that HP, Dell and even Cisco will be offering a 4 socket blade after Intel officially announces it on March 30. For today’s post, I wanted to take a look at how the 4 socket blade space will impact the overall capacity of a blade server environment. NOTE: this is purely speculation, I have no definitive information from any of these vendors that is not already public.
The Cisco UCS 5108 chassis holds 8 “half-width” B-200 blade servers or 4 “full-width” B-250 blade servers, so when we guess at what design Cisco will use for a 4 socket Intel Xeon 7500 (Nehalem EX) architecture, I have to place my bet on the full-width form factor. Why? Simply because there is more real estate. The Cisco B250 M1 blade server is known for its large memory capacity, however Cisco could sacrifice some of that extra memory space for a 4 socket, “Cisco B350“ blade. This would provide a bit of an issue for customers wanting to implement a complete rack full of these servers, as it would only allow for a total of 28 servers in a 42U rack (7 chassis x 4 servers per chassis.)
On the other hand, Cisco is in a unique position in that their half-width form factor also has extra real estate because they don’t have 2 daughter card slots like their competitors. Perhaps Cisco would create a half-width blade with 4 CPUs (a B300?) With a 42U rack, and using a half-width design, you would be able to get a maximum of 56 blade servers (7 chassis x 8 servers per chassis.)
The 10U M1000e chassis from Dell can currently handle 16 “half-height” blade servers or 8 “full height” blade servers. I don’t forsee any way that Dell would be able to put 4 CPUs into a half-height blade. There just isn’t enough room. To do this, they would have to sacrifice something, like memory slots or a daughter card expansion slot, which just doesn’t seem like it is worth it. Therefore, I predict that Dell’s 4 socket blade will be a full-height blade server, probably named a PowerEdge M910. With this assumption, you would be able to get 32 blade servers in a 42u rack (4 chassis x 8 blades.)
Similar to Dell, HP’s 10U BladeSystem c7000 chassis can currently handle 16 “half-height” blade servers or 8 “full height” blade servers. I don’t forsee any way that HP would be able to put 4 CPUs into a half-height blade. There just isn’t enough room. To do this, they would have to sacrifice something, like memory slots or a daughter card expansion slot, which just doesn’t seem like it is worth it. Therefore, I predict that HP’s 4 socket blade will be a full-height blade server, probably named a Proliant BL680 G7 (yes, they’ll skip G6.) With this assumption, you would be able to get 32 blade servers in a 42u rack (4 chassis x 8 blades.)
Finally, IBM’s 9U BladeCenter H chassis offers up 14 servers. IBM has one size server, called a “single wide.” IBM will also have the ability to combine servers together to form a “double-wide”, which is what is needed for the newly announced IBM BladeCenter HX5. A double-width blade server reduces the IBM BladeCenter’s capacity to 7 servers per chassis. This means that you would be able to put 28 x 4 socket IBM HX5 blade servers into a 42u rack (4 chassis x 7 servers each.)
In a tie for 1st place, at 32 blade servers in a 42u rack, Dell and HP would have the most blade server density based on their existing full-height blade server design. IBM and Cisco would come in at 3rd place with 28 blade servers in a 42u rack.. However IF Cisco (or HP and Dell for that matter) were able to magically re-design their half-height servers to hold 4 CPUs, then they would be able to take 1st place for blade density with 56 servers.
Yes, I know that there are slim chances that anyone would fill up a rack with 4 socket servers, however I thought this would be good comparison to make. What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below.
(UPDATED 11:29 AM EST 3/2/2010)
IBM announced today the BladeCenter® HX5 – their first 4 socket blade since the HS41 blade server. IBM calls the HX5 “a scalable, high-performance blade server with unprecedented compute and memory performance, and flexibility ideal for compute and memory-intensive enterprise workloads.”
The HX5 will have the ability to be coupled with a 2nd HX5 to scale to 4 CPU Sockets, grow beyond the base memory with the MAX5 memory expansion and be offer hardware partition to split a dual node server into 2 x single node servers and back again. I’ll review each of these features in more detail below, but first, let’s look at the basics of the HX5 blade server.
- Up to 2 x Intel Xeon 7500 CPUs per node
- 16 DIMMs per node
- 2 x Solid State Disk (SSD) slots per node
- 1 x CIOv and 1 CFFh daughter card expansion slot per node, providing up to 8 I/O ports per node
- 1 x scale connector per node
In the fashion of the eX5 architecture, IBM is enabling the HX5 blade server to grow from 2 CPUs to 4 CPUs (and theoretically more) via connecting the servers through a “scale connector“. This connector will physically connect 2 HX5 servers on the tops of the servers, allowing the internal communications to extend to each others nodes. The easiest way to think of this is like a Lego . It will allow a HX5 or a MAX5 to be connected together. There will be a 2 connector, a 3 connector and a 4 connector offering. This means you could have any number of combinations from 2 x HX5 blade servers to 2 x HX5 blade servers + a MAX5 memory blade.
With the addition of a new 24 DIMM memory blade, called the MAX5, IBM is enabling users to grow the base memory from 16 memory DIMMS to 48 40 (16+24) memory DIMMs. The MAX5 will be connected via the scale connector mentioned above, and in fact, when coupled with a 2 node, 4 socket system, could enable the entire system to have 72 80 DIMMS (16 DIMMs per HX5 plus 24 DIMMs per MAX5). Granted, this will be a 4 server wide offering, but this will be a powerful offering for database servers, or even virtualization.
The final feature, known as FlexNode partitioning is the ability to split up a combined server node into individual server nodes and back again as needed. Performed using IBM Software, this feature will enable a user to automatically take a 2 node HX5 system acting as a single 4 socket system and split it up into 2 x 2 socket systems then revert back to a single 4 socket system once the workload is completed.
For example, during the day, the 4 socket HX5 server is used for as a database server, but at night, the database server is not being used, so the system is partitioned off into 2 x 2 socket physical servers that can each run their own applications.
As I’ve mentioned previously, the pricing and part number info for the IBM BladeCenter HX5 blade server is not expected to show up until the Intel Xeon 7500 processor announcement on March 30, so when that info is released, you can find it here.
For more details, head over to IBM’s
Let me know your thoughts – leave your comments below.