IBM Powers New Linux Servers

POWER5-based machines can consolidate dozens of x86 servers into one virtual system.
Posted February 15, 2007

Andy Patrizio

IBM introduced its newest server consolidation effort, a trio of p Series servers with the 64-bit POWER5 processor running Linux or its own AIX Unix operating system. The servers are aimed at companies suffering from server sprawl and offer a variety of virtualization functions that will help consolidate hardware.

In addition to the new hardware, IBM announced the System p server will run the Integrated Stack for SUSE Linux Enterprise (ISSLE), a software bundle that combines SUSE Linux Enterprise Server from Novell with a mixture of open and private source software from IBM and Centeris.

The top-end system, the System p5 560Q, is a 16-core POWER5 machine capable of running 10 partitions per core, which translate to 160 virtual partitions per machine.

In one instance, IBM (Quote) said it helped a customer consolidate 320 Dell PowerEdge 860 servers running in eight racks onto a single one, reducing floor space by an estimated 87 percent and power consumption by an estimated 66 percent.

"What we've seen is customers are really starting to experience server sprawl," Jeff Howard, director of system P for IBM, told "They've got hundreds of these 1U servers out there running Web-tier apps and they are running out of floor space, having issues of power consumption, management issues of trying to resource all of them. We wanted to offer something through server consolidation and virtualization."

IBM introduced three models for server consolidation. The p5 560Q is the high end system, with a starting price of $43,800. It uses a building block method of design that supports up to 80 cores per rack. It comes with the Advanced POWER Virtualization (APV) software for managing the virtual environment.

The next step down is the IBM BladeCenter JS21 for Web serving farms. It can hold up to 14 blades per 1U system, which IBM said would allow customers to consolidate up to 168 x86-based Linux servers into 1 BladeCenter chassis. It also comes with the APV software. Starting price is $38,835.

On the low end, there is the 1U System p5 505 Express or the quad-core System p5 505Q Express. Either system is capable of consolidating 12 x86 Linux systems into one box. The System p5 505 Express starts at $3,717 and the quad-core System p5 505Q Express starts at $5,505.

All of the aforementioned hardware will run the ISSLE stack that was announced Wednesday.

Server consolidation is a necessary evil after the server sprawl that took place in the past decade. While 32-bit processors have gotten progressively faster, they were still limited to 4GB of addressable memory, which meant the computer would max out its capacity very quickly. The System p computers, by contrast, can handle up to 128GB of memory.

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