Exclusive: BladeFrame EX slices, dices, dazzles
Egenera's flexible, modular server blade system takes a unique approach to the adaptive datacenterFollow @pvenezia
Because the BladeFrame EX lacks any form of KVM, console access to the pServers is handled through standard serial communications. Each Linux pServer runs serial gettys to permit local access through the PAN Manager application and a Java terminal application. Windows servers are handled in much the same manner, with the Windows boot process driven by the serial console and Microsoft’s SAC (Special Administration Console) used to configure the OS. Further console interaction on Windows uses RDP for standard terminal services connections. Egenera’s modified Windows installer enables remote administration by default.
Administration of the BladeFrame EX is straightforward, with root-level admins able to grant access to pools of resources to other users without allowing those users to access core-level configurations. This form of delegated administration makes the BladeFrame EX quite modular in terms of serving multiple masters without the overhead of constant IT involvement.
Also of note in PAN Manager is basic application virtualization. This feature is limited to Linux and relies on the aforementioned hot-add SCSI disk capabilities and code that permits scripts to be executed when an application is moved from one server to another. The application and all supporting start/stop scripts must reside on a specific LUN that is moved from one running pServer to another and then is invoked automatically. For instance, a dedicated Apache installation with all configuration elements and Web application code could be moved between pServers in this fashion.
I did note some odd UI issues, such as the inability to name or comment specific LUNs, requiring the admins to know exactly what’s on LUN 188.8.131.52 rather than rely on a configurable name. Also, the relatively limited external network I/O may be a problem for some installations requiring more than 16-gigabit throughput from 24 blades, and disk I/O performance is based on the performance of the external SAN. It would be nice to see the next generation leverage 10 Gigabit Ethernet to achieve greater external throughput.
Overall, the BladeFrame EX is an impressive piece of hardware engineering wrapped in well-crafted management tools. It provides a solid method to reduce datacenter costs through the flexible allocation of processing, storage, and networking resources.