IBM’s New Platform Flexes Its Server Density Muscle

Mike Vizard

When it comes to compute-intensive workloads, density has become the number one challenge due to the space constraints of the data center. The primary goal is to pack as much computing power as can be effectively managed by few administrators into as small of a space as possible.

To rise to that challenge, IBM unveiled what it described as a new “double-density” x86 server platform alongside a raft of IBM Power Series systems and 40Gb OpenFlow compatible Ethernet switches that can all be integrated within the same software-defined networking (SDN) architecture.

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According to Jeff Howard, vice president of PureFlex and Flex systems at IBM, the Flex System x222 allows each socket to house two Intel Xeon E5-2400 processors within a single multichip module. Since a 10u rack chassis contains 14 slots, each server will support up to 384GB of memory while also having slots for solid-state drive storage.

In one configuration, Howard says Flex x222 servers will be able to support up to 2,800 Windows virtual machines simultaneously.

The new Flex servers, which are based on the Power Series processors, are the latest offerings supporting IBM’s effort to expand its RISC server lineup at both the high and low end using the same basic IBM Flex System architecture. A Flex System p460, for example, is designed to handle higher database workloads. A pair of entry level and midmarket IBM Flex Systems—the p260 and p270 offerings—are aimed at segments of the market where IBM is trying to expand the appeal of its Power Series processors.

Howard says it’s not uncommon these days for organizations to deploy x86 and Power Series servers alongside each other in the same data center. In fact, Howard says IBM has sold over 6,000 Flex systems as of the second quarter. The challenge is finding a way to make it easier to manage systems based on diverse architectures. In response, the IBM Flex System Manager has been extended to support IBM x-Series systems running SAP HANA, which can be remotely accessed from Apple iOS, Google Android or Blackberry devices.

With IT organizations looking to consolidate as much compute power in as few data centers as possible, IBM is looking for these offerings to reinvigorate server sales that as of late have lagged behind competitors. The best way of going about that, from an IBM perspective, appears to be differentiating its offerings at the higher end of the market where the density of the server environment requires some unique architectural approaches to the way servers are actually designed, deployed and managed.

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