IBM unveils new BladeCenter chassis, blades

Increased I/O bandwidth could allow data to travel 10 times faster than in previous systems

IBM Corp. Wednesday rolled out a new BladeCenter chassis and several blade servers, including a blade based on the Cell processor IBM is developing with Sony Corp. and Toshiba Corp. that is used in Sony's PlayStation game console.

IBM's new chassis, dubbed the BladeCenter H, increases the amount of I/O bandwidth available to blade servers, which allows data to travel some 10 times faster than in previous systems, according to IBM officials speaking at a New York press event Wednesday. The BladeCenter also comes with a new management tool, the Advanced Management Module, which integrates with IBM's Director and Tivoli products to help IT managers install and manage their systems from one central location. The BladeCenter H and Advanced Management Module will be available in March starting at US$3,849.

IBM is targeting its forthcoming Cell processor-based blade, which boasts nine dual cores, for computation-intensive workloads and broadband-media applications. The company believes it will have the greatest impact for applications that involve streaming data or image manipulation in such industries as medical imaging and life sciences, said Ted Maeurer, senior manager for IBM Cell solutions. At the event Maeurer demonstrated how a CT scan reconstruction could be expedited by using a Cell processor-based blade. IBM's Cell-based blade will be available in the third quarter of 2006.

Also on tap is IBM's next Power processor-based blade, the JS21, built with IBM's dual-core PowerPC 970MP processor. The blade also includes built-in virtualization capabilities. IBM is targeting the blade for the bioinformatics, grid computing, retail, manufacturing and petroleum research companies. The BladeCenter JS21 will be available in March starting at $2,499.

IBM also introduced a low-power, dual-core, Intel Xeon-based blade, the BladeCenter HS20, geared to help users control data center power and cooling. The BladeCenter HS20 will be available in April starting at $1,749.

The new blades can be used in any IBM BladeCenter chassis model.

BladeCenter users at Wednesday's event welcomed the low-power blade server.

"Once you condense and consolidate, the problem is heat. We like seeing the new low-wattage processors," said Dave Samic, senior network analyst for FirstMerit Corp., an Akron, Ohio.

"I like the way IBM is going cafeteria-style for servers, they're doing a lot to match the server to the needs of a business where before you had to buy a generic server," said Jack Ondeck, senior vice president and chief information officer, Bristol West Insurance Group, in Davie, Florida.

Also Wednesday, IBM said it would release next quarter with Cisco Systems Inc. an InfiniBand switch designed for the BladeCenter H that is four times faster than previous models.

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