Technical Details on the IBM HX5 Blade Server (UPDATED)

(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.

Block Diagram
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!

21 thoughts on “Technical Details on the IBM HX5 Blade Server (UPDATED)

  1. Pingback: Kevin Houston

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  3. mike

    Thanks for the Redbook link, some very interesting stuff there:
    -Interesting the company that constantly talks about mythical midplane redundancy/dual connectors hooks 2-4 really expensive, mission critical blades together with a single “lego”-like scale connector. IBM would be all over any other vendor who did something like that.
    -Interesting that HX5's max memory speed is 978Mhz, when 1066Mhz should be possible, wonder why that is?
    -Interesting choice of processors, only 1 from the 6500 series (and that is the bottom bin sku). Thought this was optimized for high memory, 2 socket usage but it is missing the processors that fit this usage well.
    -anyone wondering about the $199 “Speed Burst” card? in a base 2S config it routes QPI that would go to the MAX5 or other HX5 back to the other processor, but you cant have one if you connect a HX5 + MAX5 (just 1 QPI goes proc to proc in that case = performance hit, see IBM's own recommendation that you need it for the base 2S). Dell's FlexMem bridge does this in a 2S configuration as a base function. Love the name and love they are trying to charge for it as a feature vs. something their architecture took away.

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  5. Kevin Houston

    Technical Details on the #ibm HX5 Blade Server – I've updated the blog to have the Redbook link. It wasn't available when I originally wrote the post. Thanks for comment, and for reading!

  6. Kevin Houston

    Always interesting to hear #dell 's perspective of #ibm 's HX5 blade server! Thanks for taking the time to comment. As always, I appreciate you reading, Mike!

  7. mike

    yes, they can use 6500 series, but very strange that the only one they selected was the lowest bin 4C sku. maybe they will add more later, but this is going to make their 2S configuration really expensive if they stick with these skus. Without MAX5, the single HX5 2S configuration isnt interesting anyway as it has no value prop vs. a 2S westmere EP.

  8. Yossi

    Do you know which Bladecenter chasis will work with this new blade? We have the H series right now.


  9. mike

    according to the redbook, HX5 is not supported on BC E or the DC power version of HT. likely too much power draw

  10. mike

    do you know why HX5 doesn't support the full 1066Mhz memory speed that Intel's architecture allows. there is a proc listed w/ 6.4GT/s QPI, but it also says it runs at 978Mhz

  11. David Watts

    Mike, I'll look into that and report back. Yes looking at Table 4-8, the Xeon E7540 has an SMI link speed of 6.4 GT/s and by that alone I would have expected a memory bus speed of 1066 MHz. The 978 MHz could be a mistake there. David.

  12. Chris N

    Thanks also for the Redbook link.

    Interesting that all VLP memory for the HX5 blade is x8. No x4 typical of previous blades is listed. Thus 8GB DIMMs are 4Rx8 when 2Rx4 are available. Both are built with 2Gbit DRAM. Lower cost per DIMM perhaps to encourage buying more of them?

    For the x3850 X5, only the 16GB DIMM offering is 4Rx4 (a necessity until 4Gbit-based DIMMs are available), while all smaller DIMMs are x8.

    If the goal is more DIMMs/processor and more memory, will this platform (and other Boxboro platforms) support DIMMs with 4Gbit DRAM later this year or will Mill Brook BoB remain limited to 2Gbit DRAM?

  13. Proteus

    The 6500 series really aren't that interesting. With the high cost of vSphere, the 8 core 7500 is where the bulk of demand is going to be.
    FSB is confirmed at 1066..978 is a misprint. Also note that like ALL the new IBM systems, these have the thermal capability to handle turbo mode, even at full utilization (unlike some competitiors). And as to Flexmem…there is quite a latency hit, as you'll see when..or if Dell publishes 2S benchmarks for the R810..

  14. Kevin Houston

    RE: the #ibm HX5 + MAX5 and 130W – right now it is not showing support, but I believe that support will come later this year. Hopefully one of the IBM'ers will be able to confirm. Thanks for the question and thanks for reading!

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