Category Archives: IBM

IBM BladeCenter HS22 Delivers Best SPECweb2005 Score Ever Achieved by a Blade Server

HS22According to IBM’s System x and BladeCenter x86 Server Blog, the IBM BladeCenter HS22 server has posted the best SPECweb2005 score ever from a blade server.  With a SPECweb2005 supermetric score of 75,155, IBM has reached a benchmark seen by no other blade yet to-date.  The SPECweb2005 benchmark is designed to be a neutral, equal benchmark for evaluting the peformance of web servers.  According to the IBM blog, the score is derived from three different workloads measured:

  • SPECweb2005_Banking – 109,200 simultaneous sessions
  • SPECweb2005_Ecommerce – 134,472 simultaneous sessions
  • SPECweb2005_Support – 64,064 simultaneous sessions

The HS22 achieved these results using two Quad-Core Intel Xeon Processor X5570 (2.93GHz with 256KB L2 cache per core and 8MB L3 cache per processor—2 processors/8 cores/8 threads). The HS22 was also configured with 96GB of memory, the Red Hat Enterprise Linux® 5.4 operating system, IBM J9 Java® Virtual Machine, 64-bit Accoria Rock Web Server 1.4.9 (x86_64) HTTPS software, and Accoria Rock JSP/Servlet Container 1.3.2 (x86_64).

It’s important to note that these results have not yet been “approved” by SPEC, the group who posts the results, but as soon as they are, they’ll be published at at http://www.spec.org/osg/web2005

The IBM HS22 is IBM’s most popular blade server with the following specs:

  • up to  2 x Intel 5500 Processors
  • 12 memory slots for a current maximum of 96Gb of RAM
  • 2 hot swap hard drive slots capable of running RAID 1 (SAS or SATA)
  • 2 PCI Express connectors for I/O expansion cards (NICs, Fibre HBAs, 10Gb Ethernet, CNA, etc)
  • Internal USB slot for running VMware ESXi
  • Remote management
  • Redundant connectivity

ibm_hs22_nehalem_blade

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(UPDATED) Officially Announced: IBM’s Nexus 4000 Switch: 4001I (PART 2)

I’ve gotten a lot of response from my first post, “REVEALED: IBM’s Nexus 4000 Switch: 4001I” and more information is coming out quickly so I decided to post a part 2. IBM officially announced the switch on October 20, 2009, so here’s some additional information:

  • The Nexus 4001I Switch for the IBM BladeCenter is part # 46M6071 and has a list price of $12,999 (U.S.) each
  • In order for the Nexus 4001I switch for the IBM BladeCenter to connect to an upstream FCoE switch, an additional software purchase is required. This item will be part # strong>49Y9983, “Software Upgrade License for Cisco Nexus 4001I.” This license upgrade allows for the Nexus 4001I to handle FCoE traffic. It has a U.S. list price of $3,899
  • The Cisco Nexus 4001I for the IBM BladeCenter will be compatible with the following blade server expansion cards
    • 2/4 Port Ethernet Expansion Card, part # 44W4479
    • NetXen 10Gb Ethernet Expansion Card, part # 39Y9271
    • Broadcom 2-port 10Gb Ethernet Exp. Card, part # 44W4466
    • Broadcom 4-port 10Gb Ethernet Exp. Card, part # 44W4465
    • Broadcom 10 Gb Gen 2 2-port Ethernet Exp. Card, part # 46M6168
    • Broadcom 10 Gb Gen 2 4-port Ethernet Exp. Card, part # 46M6164
    • QLogic 2-port 10Gb Converged Network Adapter, part # 42C1830
  • (UPDATED 10/22/09) The newly announced Emulex Virtual Adapter WILL NOT work with the Nexus 4001I IN VIRTUAL NIC (vNIC) mode.  It will work in pNIC mode according to IBM.

The Cisco Nexus 4001I switch for the IBM BladeCenter is a new approach to getting converged network traffic. As I posted a few weeks ago in my post, “How IBM’s BladeCenter works with BladeCenter H Diagram 6 x 10Gb UplinksCisco Nexus 5000” before the Nexus 4001I was announced, in order to get your blade servers to communicate with a Cisco Nexus 5000, you had to use a CNA,and a 10Gb Pass-Thru Module as shown on the left. The pass-thru module used in that solution requires for a direct connection to be made from the pass-thru module to the Cisco Nexus 5000 for every blade server that requires connectivity. This means for 14 blade servers, 14 connections are required to the Cisco Nexus 5000. This solution definitely works – it just eats up 14 Nexus 5000 ports. At $4,999 list (U.S.), plus the cost of the GBICs, the “pass-thru” scenario may be a good solution for budget conscious environments.

In comparison, with the IBM Nexus 4001I switch, we now can have as few as 1 uplink to the Cisco Nexus 5000 from the Nexus 4001I switch. This allows you to have more open ports on the Cisco Nexus 5000 for connections to other IBM Bladecenters with Nexus 4001I switches, or to allow connectivity from your rack based servers with CNAs.

Bottom line: the Cisco Nexus 4001I switch will reduce your port requirements on your Cisco Nexus 5000 or Nexus 7000 switch by allowing up to 14 servers to uplink via 1 port on the Nexus 4001I.

For more details on the IBM Nexus 4001I switch, I encourage you to go to the newly released IBM Redbook for the Nexus 4001I Switch.

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IBM Announces Emulex Virtual Fabric Adapter for BladeCenter…So?

Emulex Virtual Fabric AdapterEmulex and IBM announced today the availability of a new Emulex expansion card for blade servers that allows for up to 8 virtual nics to be assigned for each physical NIC.  The “Emulex Virtual Fabric Adapter for IBM BladeCenter (IBM part # 49Y4235)” is a CFF-H expansion card is based on industry-standard PCIe architecture and can operate as a “Virtual NIC Fabric Adapter” or as a dual-port 10 Gb or 1 Gb Ethernet card. 

When operating as a Virtual NIC (vNIC) each of the 2 physical ports appear to the blade server as 4 virtual NICs for a total of 8 virtual NICs per card.  According to IBM, the default bandwidth for each vNIC is 2.5 Gbps. The cool feature about this mode is that the bandwidth for each vNIC can be configured from 100 Mbps to 10 Gbps, up to a maximum of 10 Gb per virtual port.  The one catch with this mode is that it ONLY operates with the  BNT Virtual Fabric 10Gb Switch Module, which provides independent control for each vNIC.  This means no connection to Cisco Nexus…yet.  According to Emulex, firmware updates coming later (Q1 2010??) will allow for this adapter to be able to handle FCoE and iSCSI as a feature upgrade.  Not sure if that means compatibility with Cisco Nexus 5000 or not.  We’ll have to wait and see.

When used as a normal Ethernet Adapter (10Gb or 1Gb), aka “pNIC mode“, the card can is viewed as a  standard 10 Gbps or 1 Gbps 2-port Ethernet expansion card.   The big difference here is that it will work with any available 10 Gb switch or 10 Gb pass-thru module installed in I/O module bays 7 and 9.

BladeCenter H I-O

So What?
I’ve known about this adapter since VMworld, but I haven’t blogged about it because I just don’t see a lot of value.  HP has had this functionality for over a year now in their VirtualConnect Flex-10  offering so this technology is nothing new.  Yes, it would be nice to set up a NIC in VMware ESX that only uses 200MB of a pipe, but what’s the difference in having a fake NIC that “thinks” he’s only able to use 200MB vs a big fat 10Gb pipe for all of your I/O traffic.  I’m just not sure, but am open to any comments or thoughts.

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REVEALED: IBM's Nexus 4000 Switch: 4001I (Updated)

Finally – information on the soon-to-be-released Cisco Nexus 4000 switch for IBM BladeCenter.  Apparently IBM is officially calling their version “Cisco Nexus Switch Module 4001I for the IBM BladeCenter.”  I’m not sure if it’s “officially” announced yet, but I’ve uncovered some details.  Here is a summary of the Cisco Nexus Switch Module 4001I for the IBM BladeCenter:Nexus 4000i Photo

  • Six external 10-Gb Ethernet ports for uplink
  • 14 internal XAUI ports for connection to the server blades in the chassis
  • One 10/100/1000BASE-T RJ-45 copper management port for out-of-band management link  (this port is available on the front panel next to the console port)
  • One external RS-232 serial console port  (this port is available on the front panel and uses an RJ-45 connector)

More tidbits of info:

  • The switch will be capable of forwarding Ethernet and FCoE packets at wire rate speed. 
  • The six external ports will be SFP+ (no surprise) and they’ll support 10GBASE-SR SFP+, 10GBASE-LR SFP+, 10GBASE-CU SFP+ and GE-SFP.
  • Internal port speeds can run at 1 Gb or 10Gb (and can be set to auto-negotiate); full duplex
  • Internal ports will be able to forward Layer-2 packets at wire rate speed.
  • The switch will work in the IBM BladeCenter “high-speed bays” (bays 7, 8, 9 and 10); however at this time, the available Converged Network Adapters (CNAs) for the IBM blade servers will only work with Nexus 4001I’s located in bays 7 and 9.

There is also mention of a “Nexus 4005I” from IBM, but I can’t find anything on that.  I do not believe that IBM has announced this product, so the information provided is based on documentation from Cisco’s web site.  I expect announcement to come in the next 2 weeks, though, with availability probably following in November just in time for the Christmas rush!

For details on the information mentioned above, please visit the Cisco web site, titled “Cisco Nexus 4001I and 4005I Switch Module for IBM BladeCenter Hardware Installation Guide“. 

If you are interested in finding out more about configuring the NX-OS for the Cisco Nexus Switch Module 4001I for the IBM BladeCenter, check out the Cisco Nexus 4001I and 4005I Switch Module for IBM BladeCenter NX-OS Configuration Guide

 UPDATE (10/20/09): the IBM part # for the Cisco Nexus 4001I Switch Module will be 46M6071

 UPDATE # 2 (10/20/09,  17:37 PM EST): Found more Cisco links:
Cisco Nexus 4001I Switch Module At A Glance

Cisco Nexus 4001I Switch Module DATA SHEET

New Picture:

Nexus 4000i Photo 2

 

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How IBM's BladeCenter works with Cisco Nexus 5000

Cisco Nexus 4000 switch for blade chassis environments, I thought it would be good to discuss how IBM is able to connect blade servers via 10Gb Datacenter Ethernet (or Converged Enhanced Ethernet) to a Cisco Nexus 5000.

Other than Cisco’s UCS offering, IBM is currently the only blade vendor who offers a Converged Network Adapter (CNA) for the blade server.  The 2 port CNA sits on the server in a PCI express slot and is mapped to high speed bays with CNA port #1 going to High Speed Bay #7 and CNA port #2 going to High Speed Bay #9.  Here’s an overview of the IBM BladeCenter H I/O Architecture (click to open large image:)

BladeCenter H I-O

Since the CNAs are only switched to I/O Bays 7 and 9, those are the only bays that require a “switch” for the converged traffic to leave the chassis.  At this time, the only option to get the converged traffic out of the IBM BladeCenter H is via a 10Gb “pass-thru” module.  A pass-thru module is not a switch – it just passes the signal through to the next layer, in this case the Cisco Nexus 5000. 

10 Gb Ethernet Pass-thru Module for IBM BladeCenter

10 Gb Ethernet Pass-thru Module for IBM BladeCenter

The pass-thru module is relatively inexpensive, however it requires a connection to the Nexus 5000 for every server that has a CNA installed.  As a reminder, the IBM BladeCenter H can hold up to 14 servers with CNAs installed so that would require 14 of the 20 ports on a Nexus 5010.  This is a small cost to pay, however to gain the 80% efficiency that 10Gb Datacenter Ethernet (or Converged Enhanced Ethernet) offers.  The overall architecture for the IBM Blade Server with CNA + IBM BladeCenter H + Cisco Nexus 5000 would look like this (click to open larger image:)

BladeCenter H Diagram 6 x 10Gb Uplinks

 

Hopefully when IBM announces their Cisco Nexus 4000 switch for the IBM BladeCenter H later this month, it will provide connectivity to CNAs on the IBM Blade server and it will help consolidate the amount of connections required to the Cisco Nexus 5000 from 14 to perhaps 6 connections ;) 

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IBM Announces 4 Socket Intel Blade Server-UPDATED

IBM announced last week they will be launching a new blade server modeled with the upcoming 4 socket Intel Nehalem EX.  While details have not yet been provided on this new server, I wanted to provide an estimation of what this server could look like, based on previous IBM models.  I’ve drawn up what I think it will look like below, but first let me describe it.

“New Server Name”
IBM’s naming schema is pretty straight forward: Intel blades are “HS”, AMD blades are “LS”, Power blades are “JS”.  Knowing this, I the new server will most likely be called a “HS42“.  IBM previously had an HS40 and HS41, so calling it an HS42 would make the most sense. 

“Size
With the amount of memory that each CPU will have access to, I don’t see any way for IBM to create a 4 socket blade that wasn’t a “double-wide” form factor.  A “double-wide” design means the server is 2 server slots wide, so in a single IBM BladeCenter H chassis, customers would be limited to 7  x HS42’s per chassis.

“Memory”
The Intel Nehalem EX will tentatively support 16 memory slots PER CPU, across 4 memory channels, so a 4 socket server will have 64 memory slots.  Each memory channel can hold up to 4 DIMMs each.  This is great, but this is the MAX for an upcoming Intel Nehalem EX server.  I do not expect for any blade server vendor to achieve 64 memory slots with 4 CPUs.  Since this is the maximum, it makes sense that vendors, like IBM, will be able to use less memory.  I expect for these new servers to have 12 memory slots per CPUs (or 3 DIMMs per memory channel).  This will still provide 48 memory dimms per” HS42″ blade server; and with 16Gb DIMMs, that would equal 768Gb per blade server.

“CPU”
The “HS42” would have up to 4 x Intel Nehalem EX CPU’s, each with 8 cores, for a total of 32 CPU cores per “HS42” server.  HOWEVER, Intel is offering Hyperthreading with this CPU so an 8 core CPU now looks like 16 CPUs.

“Internal Drive Capacity”
I don’t see any way for IBM to have hot-swap drives in this server.  There is just not enough real estate.  So, I believe they would consider putting in Solid State drives (SSD’s) toward the front of the server.  Will they put it on both sides of the server, probably not.  The role of these drives would be just to provide space for your boot O/S.  The data will sit on a storage area network. 

“I/O Expansion”
I don’t think that IBM will re-design their existing I/O architecture for the blade servers.  Therefore, I expect for each side of the double-wide “HS42” to have a single CIOv and a CFF-h daughter card expansion slot, so a single HS42 would have 4 expansion slots.  This is assuming that IBM designs connector pins that interconnect the two halves of the server together that don’t interfere with the card slots (presumably at the upper half of the connections.)HS42 Estimation

As we come closer to the release date of the Intel Nehalem EX processor later in Q4 of 2009, I expect to hear more definitive details on the announced 4 socket IBM Blade server, so make sure to check back here later this year.

UPDATE (10/6/09):   I’m hearing rumors that IBM’s Nehalem EX processor offerings (aka “X5″ offerings” will be shipping in Q2 of 2010.)  Once that is confirmed by IBM, I’ll post a new post.

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