IBM BladeCenter delivers speed, power savings
A virtualization-ready combo of performance, energy efficiency and manageabilityFollow @infoworld
These Web interfaces provide a means to configure and manage these elements -- including a remote video console for viewing the OS video output through the chassis management module. No external software tools are needed at this level. It is worth noting that the management Web interfaces were all we needed during all our testing.
The HS22 uses unified extensible firmware interface (UEFI) instead of BIOS. This gives more flexibility for configuration and management of the blade because access to components isn't restricted by the limits of BIOS. If an operating system doesn't support UEFI, the system will boot into a 'legacy mode,' which operates like BIOS to support the non-UEFI OS. With legacy mode, the boot time is effectively doubled. Since most all hypervisors are not UEFI aware, hypervisor boot times are very long.
The resource management category refers to the ability to configure systems level items, such as install operating systems on the blade, and blade firmware updates. IBM provides a Web site called toolscenter which provides access to a suite of tools that operate at the resource management level.
Platform management eases the management of multiple blades. Deciding when to use resource management instead of platform management is up to the systems engineer responsible for these tasks. Some environments can be served by either method, but the general idea is that the more devices you have to manage, the more likely you will need to perform platform management.
Management at this level is implemented by IBM Systems Director. Basic tools such as system discovery, firmware and software management, and system availability monitoring are included for free. Other plug-ins to Systems Director such as virtualization management and energy configuration can be purchased.
The highest management category, called enterprise management, is implemented by IBM's Tivoli, which is available for a fee. Tivoli was not used in this review.
We found the management platforms to be comprehensive, easy to use and efficient. The only problem we discovered, if you consider this a problem, is deciding which tool to use. Fortunately, IBM has defined and documented the best practices for these tools, so that the question of which tool to use can be answered with some research.
It is worth noting that IBM does a good job with backward compatibility. The HS22 will work in a 6-year-old chassis with no problems - without 10G Ethernet support of course. The blade is easy to install and remove from the chassis. Once removed, the blade cover can be removed without tools to expose the internal components.
The RAM is a special low-height DIMM stick that is inserted at a 90-degree angle to the motherboard. This allows the RAM to be more densely packed in the blade. The HS22 has two drive bays on the front panel of the chassis so that the drives can be removed without removing the blade from the chassis.
We found the included documentation and Web site support to be useful and effective when troubleshooting configuration, capabilities and software revisions.
The HS22 is a well-designed blade that's easy to use with lots of management tools. The Nehalem processor performance and energy efficiency is astounding. When considering power efficiency, the issue of whether to choose conventional hard drives or SSDs depends on your environment. The 10G Ethernet networking performed as expected. Finally, the combination of Nehalem processors, 10G Ethernet, and lots of RAM make the HS22 a great choice for virtualization.
Bass is the technical director of NEXT Services, an IT extension service of North Carolina State University. He can be reached at email@example.com. Michael Brown, NEXT Services Engineer, assisted with the testing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bass is also a member of the Network World Lab Alliance, a cooperative of the premier reviewers in the network industry each bringing to bear years of practical experience on every review. For more Lab Alliance information, including what it takes to become a member, go to >www.networkworld.com/alliance.