• United States
Neal Weinberg
Contributing writer, Foundry

IBM BladeCenter

Aug 17, 20043 mins
Data Center

* The Reviewmeister takes a look at IBM's BladeCenter platform

The Reviewmeister loves blade servers – they’re small, they’re powerful and they’re hot. This week we review IBM’s BladeCenter platform.

The BladeCenter chassis uses 120V AC, but the unit sent to us had power distributed by twin 208V AC feeds, which in turn branched to four needed 120V AC connections. This method suits deployment where 208V AC isn’t available and only one or two chassis will be used and can be fed by redundant 128V AC feeds.

A management module blade sits in Bay #1 in the BladeCenter, and can be accessed via KVM or HTTPS. The module permits a view of all the members of the BladeCenter, and lets them be queried as to state, as well as powering them on and off. The entire BladeCenter cannot be powered down at once – each blade must be powered down individually.

IBM sent us two types of blades – the HS40 and HS20. The HS40 is a 4-Xeon CPU blade, and the HS20 is a 2-Xeon CPU blade. We tested the HS20s. The HS20 takes up a single slot inside the BladeCenter chassis. A daughter card (called a “mezzanine adapter”) is provided to connect blade servers to a SAN. Brocade provides redundant 16-port SAN switches if SAN options are chosen for the blades. The IBM blades come with an on-board drive, and two can be placed on the drive in a RAID 1 configuration.

Also IBM permits an external, hot-swappable drive to be used with a blade. This can be helpful, as a blade must be removed from the chassis (and therefore powered off) for an internal hard drive swap to be made. The external drive can be hot-pulled or failed over to without removing a blade from its chassis. An IBM-branded Cisco blade provides either single or redundant Gigabit Ethernet switches to the IBM blade enclosure.

The IBM Director is the management application used for the BladeCenter chassis and components. Each and every item, including switches, can be discovered and managed by Director. Managed devices can be discovered through a query process, and then populate the Director GUI.

Devices with Director agent software can then have various facets examined, or set for error traps. We checked the trapping mechanism by watching CPU temperature and utilization. We then blocked a specific blade’s airflow, watched the CPU temperature climb, until the blade shut down on our toggle. In our case it took about four minutes for a CPU to cool down.

The Director software, where supported by Director agents, has incredibly granular details about the blade server. Director supplements the functionality of the management module blade, and Director has a superset of functionality over those in the management module. Director is the greatest strength of the IBM BladeCenter, and was a pleasure to use.

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