RLX blade-and-storage combo falls short
One-stop-shopping is nice, but RLX's SAN storage solution lacks Control Tower XT integration magicFollow @infoworld
RLX latest offering is what the company calls a “modular computing” solution, containing blade servers and FC (Fibre Channel) storage arrays, plus an enhanced version of its Control Tower management software for provisioning the storage system.
These additional products — some of which are manufactured by partners — better position RLX to compete against other major blade companies. That’s because it’s often advantageous to purchase a single integrated computing ecosystem of processors and storage, which provides better interoperability as well as “one call” support.
The good news is that RLX’s solution, with server blades and storage subsystems, is functional and complete. The bad news is that RLX hasn’t fully integrated the products or added value beyond that of the individual components.
The blade servers and chassis I tested haven’t evolved since I examined them last summer. The FC switch and storage array are RLX products in name only and lack the hardware-based management functionality that distinguishes the RLX blade technology. The excellent Control Tower software has gone through only minor revisions and manages only RLX’s own hardware, so it doesn’t see the storage subsystem.
Old meets new
The RLX system’s foundation is its System 600ex Chassis, which can support as many as 10 dual-processor server blades within a standard 6U rack-mount enclosure. It’s an impressive chassis, with three redundant power supplies and four expansion slots at the rear. Those slots can be populated with options including a management module, GbE switch module, a 2GB FC pass-through, or a new InfiniBand pass-through.
The server blades for this chassis range in speed from a 2.6GHz Intel Xeon DP to a recently introduced 3.2GHz Xeon server. Each blade has one or two internal (non-hot-swappable) hard drives, as much as 8GB of RAM, can be configured with one or two processors, and contains dual 1GB Ethernet NICs (network interface cards). There’s also a daughter-card slot for a 2GB FC.
The chassis I received contained one GbE switch module, a management module, and an FC pass-through. There were nine dual-processor 2.8GHz blades, four with Windows 2000 Server and five with Red Hat Linux; all had the FC daughter card. With the exception of that FC card, this was an identical configuration to what I previously reviewed.
Also in the package was Control Tower XT, RLX’s management software. Control Tower is arguably the best server management software I’ve ever seen, with the capability of monitoring hardware and software down to an extremely granular level, aided by management agents in Windows and Linux, as well as IP-based management chips in the servers and in the chassis.
With Control Tower, every element — from fans to complete servers to an entire rack — can be managed through an extremely intuitive, Java-built, browser-based application. The RLX-designed hardware, including chassis and blades, has numerous tiny LCD panels and a control button. Collectively called ActivStat, it is used to monitor and configure the chassis, its components, and individual servers without Control Tower.