Blade server review: IBM BladeCenter H

IBM's blade system combines strong performance and solid features, but also lower density and higher cost

Everything about the IBM BladeCenter H just screams IBM, from the mainframe-like aesthetics to the spartan management interface -- even the "H" model name. Severe-looking matte-black chassis notwithstanding, the BladeCenter H matches most of the major features of the Dell and HP blade systems but at a higher price. The BladeCenter also comes in smaller portions: IBM's slightly shorter chassis holds fewer blades than the Dell and HP enclosures.

With features like the Virtual Fabric virtualized network I/O, the HS22V blades specifically designed for virtualization, and reasonably complete embedded management tools, the BladeCenter H is a solid solution. But the higher price, lower density, and lack of advanced embedded management capabilities are drawbacks.

Chassis and blades
The IBM BladeCenter H is a 9U chassis that holds 14 blades -- again, 2 fewer than the HP and Dell blade units. Each blade is surprisingly slim, but they're otherwise nearly identical to the others' blade offerings. There's no heads-up LCD, and several of the status lights are small enough to be difficult to see at a glance. The H chassis is also unique in having a vertical DVD-ROM drive set into the bezel on the right-hand side; each blade has a Media Tray button that maps the contents of that drive (or an image via the management console) to that particular blade.

In the rear, there are eight I/O slots, split into two groups of four. The four traditional modules support lower-bandwidth I/O, including gigabit Ethernet and 1x InfiniBand or Myrinet fabrics. The other four modules are tasked for high-bandwidth I/O, including 10G Ethernet and 4x InfiniBand. As with the others, they're mapped 1-to-1 to the blade I/O ports, so you'll need a matched set of I/O modules in the rear to fully support the internal I/O in each blade.

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