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A white paper released today by Dell shows that the Dell M1000e blade chassis infrastructure offers significant power savings compared to equivalent HP and IBM blade environments. In fact, the results were audited by an outside source, the Enterprise Management Associates (http://www.enterprisemanagement.com). After the controversy with the Tolly Group report discussing HP vs Cisco, I decided to take the time to investigate these findings a bit deeper.

The Dell Technical White Paper titled, “Power Efficiency Comparison of Enterprise-Class Blade Servers and Enclosures” was written by the Dell Server Performance Analysis Team. This team is designed to run competitive comparisons for internal use, however the findings of this report were decided to be published external to Dell since the results were unexpected. The team used an industry standard SPECpower_ssj2008 benchmark to compare the power draw and performance per watt of blade solutions from Dell, HP and IBM. SPECpower_ssj2008 is the first industry-standard benchmark created by the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC) that evaluates the power and performance characteristics of volume server class and multi-node class computers. According to the white paper, the purpose of using this benchmark was to establish a level playing field to examine the true power efficiency of the Tier 1 blade server providers using identical configurations.

What Was Tested

Each blade chassis was fully populated with blade servers running a pair of Intel Xeon X5670 CPUs. In the Dell configuration, 16 x M610 blade servers were used, in the HP configuration, 16 x BL460c G6 blade servers were used and in the IBM configuration, 14 x HS22 blade servers was used since the IBM BladeCenter H holds a x maximum of 14 servers. Each server was configured with 6 x 4GB (24GB total) and 2 x 73GB 15k SAS drives, running Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Enterprise R2. Each chassis used the maximum amount of power supplies – Dell: 6, HP: 6 and IBM: 4 and was populated with a pair of Ethernet Pass-thru modules in the first two I/O bays.

Summary of the Findings

I don’t want to re-write the 48 page technical white paper, so I’ll summarize the results.

  • While running the CPUs at 40 – 60% utilization, Dell’s chassis used 13 – 17% less power than the HP C7000 with 16 x BL460c G6 servers
  • While running the CPUs at 40 – 60% utilization, Dell’s chassis used 19 – 20% less power than the IBM BladeCenter H with 14 x HS22s
  • At idle power, Dell’s chassis used 24% less power than the HP C7000 with 16 x BL460c G6 servers
  • At idle power, Dell’s chassis used 63.6% less power than the IBM BladeCenter H with 14 x HS22s

Dell - Blade Solution Chart

Following a review of the findings I had the opportunity to interview Dell’s Senior Product Manager for Blade Marketing, Robert Bradfield, , where I asked some questions about the study.

Question – “Why wasn’t Cisco’s UCS included in this test?”

Answer – The Dell testing team didn’t have the right servers. They do have a Cisco UCS, but they don’t have the UCS blade servers that would equal the BL460 G6 or the HS22’s.

Question – “Why did you use pass-thru modules for the design, and why only two?”

Answer – Dell wanted to create a level playing field. Each vendor has similar network switches, but there are differences. Dell did not want for those differences to impact the testing at all, so they chose to go with pass-thru modules. Same reason as to why they didn’t use more than 2. With Dell having 6 I/O bays, HP having 8 I/O bays and IBM having 8 I/O bays, it would have been challenging to create an equal environment to measure the power accurately.

Question – “How long did it take to run these tests?”

Answer – It took a few weeks. Dell placed all 3 blade chassis side-by-side but they only ran the tests on one chassis at a time. They wanted to give the test in progress absolute focus. In fact, the two chassis that were not being tested were not running at all (no power) because the testing team wanted to ensure there were no thermal variations.

Question – “Were the systems on a bench, or did you have them racked?”

Answer – All 3 chassis were racked – in their own rack. They were properly cooled with perforated doors with vented floor panels under the floor. In fact, the temperatures never varied by 1 degree between all enclosures.

Question – “Why do you think the Dell design offered the lowest power in these tests?”

Answer – There are three contributing factors to the success of Dell’s M1000e chassis offering a lower power draw over HP and IBM. The first is the 2700W Platinum certified power supply. It offers greater energy efficiency over previous power supplies and they are shipping as a standard power supply in the M1000e chassis now. However, truth be told, the difference in “Platinum” certified and “Gold” certified is only 2 – 3%, so this adds very little to the power savings seen in the white paper. Second is the technology of the Dell M1000e fans. Dell has patent pending fan control algorithms that help provide better fan efficiency. From what I understand this patent helps to ensure that at no point in time does the fan rev up to “high”. (If you are interested in reading about the patent pending fan control technology, pour yourself a cup of coffee and read all about it at the U.S. Patent Office website – application number 20100087965). Another interesting fact is that the fans used in the Dell M1000e are balanced by the manufacturer to ensure proper rotation. It is a similar process to the way your car tires are balanced – there is one or two small weights on each fan. (This is something you can validate if you own a Dell M1000e). Overall, it really comes down to the overall architecture of the Dell M1000e chassis being designed for efficient laminar airflow. In fact (per Robert Bradfield) when you look at the Dell M1000e as tested in this technical white paper versus the IBM BladeCenter H, the savings in power realized in a one year period would be enough power saved to power a single U.S. home for one year.

I encourage you, the reader, to review this Technical White Paper (Power Efficiency Comparison of Enterprise-Class Blade Servers and Enclosures) for yourself and see what your thoughts are. I’ve looked for things like use of solid state drives or power efficient memory DIMMs, but this seems to be legit. However I know there will be critics, so voice your thoughts in the comments below. I promise you Dell is watching to see what you think…

Intel officially announced today the Xeon 5600 processor, code named “Westmere.” Cisco, HP and IBM also announced their blade servers that have the new processor. The Intel Xeon 5600 offers:

  • 32nm process technology with 50% more threads and cache
  • Improved energy efficiency with support for 1.35V low power memory

There will be 4 core and 6 core offerings. This processor also provide the option of HyperThreading, so you could have up to 8 threads and 12 threads per processor, or 16 and 24 in a dual CPU system. This will be a huge advantage to applications that like multiple threads, like virtualization. Here’s a look at what each vendor has come out with:

Cisco
Cisco B200 blade serverThe B200 M2 provides Cisco users with the current Xeon 5600 processors. It looks like Cisco will be offering a choice of the following Xeon 5600 processors: Intel Xeon X5670, X5650, E5640, E5620, L5640, or E5506. Because Cisco’s model is a “built-to-order” design, I can’t really provide any part numbers, but knowing what speeds they have should help.

HP
HP is starting off with the Intel Xeon 5600 by bumping their existing G6 models to include the Xeon 5600 processor. The look, feel, and options of the blade servers will remain the same – the only difference will be the new processor. According to HP, “the HP ProLiant G6 platform, based on Intel Xeon 5600 processors, includes the HP ProLiant BL280c, BL2x220c, BL460c and BL490c server blades and HP ProLiant WS460c G6 workstation blade for organizations requiring high density and performance in a compact form factor. The latest HP ProLiant G6 platforms will be available worldwide on March 29.It appears that HP’s waiting until March 29 to provide details on their Westmere blade offerings, so don’t go looking for part numbers or pricing on their website.

IBM
IBM is continuing to stay ahead of the game with details about their product offerings. They’ve refreshed their HS22 and HS22v blade servers:

HS22
7870ECU – Express HS22, 2x Xeon 4C X5560 95W 2.80GHz/1333MHz/8MB L2, 4x2GB, O/Bay 2.5in SAS, SR MR10ie

7870G4U – HS22, Xeon 4C E5640 80W 2.66GHz/1066MHz/12MB, 3x2GB, O/Bay 2.5in SAS

7870GCU – HS22, Xeon 4C E5640 80W 2.66GHz/1066MHz/12MB, 3x2GB, O/Bay 2.5in SAS, Broadcom 10Gb Gen2 2-port

7870H2U -HS22, Xeon 6C X5650 95W 2.66GHz/1333MHz/12MB, 3x2GB, O/Bay 2.5in SAS

7870H4U – HS22, Xeon 6C X5670 95W 2.93GHz/1333MHz/12MB, 3x2GB, O/Bay 2.5in SAS

7870H5U – HS22, Xeon 4C X5667 95W 3.06GHz/1333MHz/12MB, 3x2GB, O/Bay 2.5in SAS

7870HAU – HS22, Xeon 6C X5650 95W 2.66GHz/1333MHz/12MB, 3x2GB, O/Bay 2.5in SAS, Emulex Virtual Fabric Adapter

7870N2U – HS22, Xeon 6C L5640 60W 2.26GHz/1333MHz/12MB, 3x2GB, O/Bay 2.5in SAS

7870EGU – Express HS22, 2x Xeon 4C E5630 80W 2.53GHz/1066MHz/12MB, 6x2GB, O/Bay 2.5in SAS

IBM HS22V Blade ServerHS22V
7871G2U HS22V, Xeon 4C E5620 80W 2.40GHz/1066MHz/12MB, 3x2GB, O/Bay 1.8in SAS

7871G4U HS22V, Xeon 4C E5640 80W 2.66GHz/1066MHz/12MB, 3x2GB, O/Bay 1.8in SAS

7871GDU HS22V, Xeon 4C E5640 80W 2.66GHz/1066MHz/12MB, 3x2GB, O/Bay 1.8in SAS

7871H4U HS22V, Xeon 6C X5670 95W 2.93GHz/1333MHz/12MB, 3x2GB, O/Bay 1.8in SAS

7871H5U HS22V, Xeon 4C X5667 95W 3.06GHz/1333MHz/12MB, 3x2GB, O/Bay 1.8in SAS

7871HAU HS22V, Xeon 6C X5650 95W 2.66GHz/1333MHz/12MB, 3x2GB, O/Bay 1.8in SAS

7871N2U HS22V, Xeon 6C L5640 60W 2.26GHz/1333MHz/12MB, 3x2GB, O/Bay 1.8in SAS

7871EGU Express HS22V, 2x Xeon 4C E5640 80W 2.66GHz/1066MHz/12MB, 6x2GB, O/Bay 1.8in SAS

7871EHU Express HS22V, 2x Xeon 6C X5660 95W 2.80GHz/1333MHz/12MB, 6x4GB, O/Bay 1.8in SAS

I could not find any information on what Dell will be offering, from a blade server perspective, so if you have information (that is not confidential) feel free send it my way.

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