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It’s been a while since I’ve posted what rumours I’m hearing, so I thought I’d dig around and see what I can find out. NOTE: this is purely speculation, I have no definitive information from any vendor about any of this information so this may be false info. Read at your own risk.

Rumour #1 – GPU’s on a Blade Server
I’m hearing more and more discussion around “GPU’s” being used on a blade server. Now, I have to admit, when I hear the term, “GPU“, I’m think of Graphical Processing Unit – or the type of processor that runs a high-end graphics card. So, when I hear rumours that there might be blade servers coming out that can handle GPUs, I have to wonder WHY?

Wikipedia defines a GPU as “A graphics processing unit or GPU (also occasionally called visual processing unit or VPU) is a specialized processor that offloads 3D or 2D graphics rendering from the microprocessor. It is used in embedded systems, mobile phones, personal computers, workstations, and game consoles. Modern GPUs are very efficient at manipulating computer graphics, and their highly parallel structure makes them more effective than general-purpose CPUs for a range of complex algorithms. “

NVIDIA, the top maker of GPUs, also points out on their website, “The model for GPU computing is to use a CPU and GPU together in a heterogeneous computing model. The sequential part of the application runs on the CPU and the computationally-intensive part runs on the GPU. From the user’s perspective, the application just runs faster because it is using the high-performance of the GPU to boost performance.

(For a cool Mythbusters video on GPU vs CPU, check out Cliff’s IBM Blog.)

So if a blade vendor decided to put together the ability to run normal AMD or Intel CPUs in tandem with GPU’s from NVIDIA, let’s say by using graphics cards in PCI-x expansion slots, they would have a blade server ideal for running any application that would benefit from high pherformace computing. This seems do-able today since both HP and IBM offer PCI-x Expansion blades, however the rumour I’m hearing is that there is a blade server coming out that will be specifically designed for running GPUs. Interesting concept. I’m anxious to see how it will be received once it’s announced…

Rumour #2 – Another Blade Server Dedicated for Memory
My second rumour is less exciting than the first – is that yet another blade vendor is about to announce a blade server designed for maximum memory density. If you’ll recall, IBM has the HS22v blade and HP has the BL490c G6 blade server – both of which are designed for 18 memory DIMMs and internal drives. So – that leaves either Cisco or Dell to be next on this rumour. Since Cisco has the B250 blade server that can hold 48 DIMMs, I’m willing to believe they wouldn’t need to invest into designing a half-wide blade that can hold 18 DIMMs, therefore the only remaining option is Dell. What would Dell gain from introducing a blade server with high memory density? For one, it would give them an option to compete with IBM and HP in the “2 CPU, 18 Memory DIMM” environment. Another reason is that it would help expand Dell’s blade portfolio. If you examine what Dell’s current blade server offerings are today, you see they can’t compete with any requirement for large memory environments without moving to a full-height blade.

That’s all I have. Let me know if you hear of any other rumours.

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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.

IBM officially announced today a new addition to their blade server line – the HS22v. Modeled after the HS22 blade server, the HS22v is touted by IBM as a “high density, high performance blade optimized for virtualization.” So what makes it so great for virtualization? Let’s take a look.

Memory
One of the big differences between the HS22v and the HS22 is more memory slots. The HS22v comes with 18 x very low profile (VLP) DDR3 memory DIMMs for a maximum of 144GB RAM. This is a key attribute for a server running virtualization since everyone knows that VM’s love memory. It is important to note, though, the memory will only run at 800Mhz when all 18 slots are used. In comparison, if you only had 6 memory DIMMs installed (3 per processor) then the memory would run at 1333Mhz and 12 DIMMs installed (6 per processor) runs at 1066Mhz. As a final note on the memory, this server will be able to use both 1.5v and 1.35v memory. The 1.35v will be newer memory that is introduced as the Intel Westmere EP processor becomes available. The big deal about this is that lower voltage memory = lower overall power requirements.

Drives
The second big difference is the HS22v does not use hot-swap drives like the HS22 does. Instead, it uses a 2 x solid state drives (SSD) for local storage. These drives have hardware RAID 0/1 capabilities standard. Although the picture to the right shows a 64GB SSD drive, my understanding is that only 50GB drives will be available as they start to become readlily available on March 19, with larger sizes (64GB and 128GB) becoming available in the near future. Another thing to note is that the image shows a single SSD drive, however the 2nd drive is located directly beneath. As mentioned above, these drives do have the ability to be set up in a RAID 0 or 1 as needed.

So – why did IBM go back to using internal drives? For a few reasons:

Reason #1
: in order to get the space to add the extra memory slots, a change had to be made in the design. IBM decided that solid state drives were the best fit.

Reason #2: the SSD design allows the server to run with lower power. It’s well known that SSD drives run at a much lower power draw than physical spinning disks, so using SSD’s will help the HS22v be a more power efficient blade server than the HS22.

Reason #3: a common trend of virtualization hosts, especially VMware ESXi, is to run on integrated USB devices. By using an integrated USB key for your virtualization software, you can eliminate the need for spinning disks, or even SSD’s therefore reducing your overall cost of the server.

Processors
So here’s the sticky area. IBM will be releasing the HS22v with the Intel Xeon 5500 processor first. Later in March, as the Intel Westmere EP (Intel Xeon 5600) is announced, IBM will have models that come with it. IBM will have both Xeon 5500 and Xeon 5600 processor offerings. Why is this? I think for a couple of reasons:

a) the Xeon 5500 and the Xeon 5600 will use the same chipset (motherboard) so it will be easy for IBM to make one server board, and plop in either the Nehalem EP or the Westmere EP

b) simple – IBM wants to get this product into the marketplace sooner than later.

Questions

1) Will it fit into the BladeCenter E?
YES – however there may be certain limitations, so I’d recommend you reference the IBM BladeCenter Interoperability Guide for details.

2) Is it certified to run VMware ESX 4?
YES

3) Why didn’t IBM call it HS22XM?
According to IBM, the “XM” name is feature focused while “V” is workload focused – a marketing strategy we’ll probably see more of from IBM in the future.

That’s it for now. If there are any questions you have about the HS22v, let me know in the comments and I’ll try to get some answers.

For more on the IBM HS22v, check out IBM’s web site here.

Check back with me in a few weeks when I’m able to give some more info on what’s coming from IBM!

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