IBM's Power of Consolidation

by Andy Patrizio

Enterprises confronted with server sprawl now have a new option. IBM Wednesday introduced a trio of POWER5-based System p servers that can run the just announced ISLES, a software bundle that combines Novell's SLES with software from IBM and Centeris.

IBM introduced its newest server consolidation effort, a trio of System p servers with the 64-bit POWER5 processor running Linux or its own AIX Unix operating system. The servers are aimed at companies looking to reduce server sprawl and offer a variety of virtualization functions that will help consolidate hardware.

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In addition to the new hardware, IBM announced the System p servers will run the Integrated Stack for SUSE Linux Enterprise (ISSLE), a software bundle that combines SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) from Novell with a mixture of open and proprietary software from IBM and Centeris.

The top-end system, the System p5 560Q, is a 16-core POWER5 machine capable of running 10 partitions per core, which translates into 160 virtual partitions per machine.

In one instance, IBM said it helped a customer consolidate 320 Dell PowerEdge 860 servers running in eight racks onto a single one, reducing floor space by an estimated 87 percent and power consumption by an estimated 66 percent.

"What we've seen is customers are really starting to experience server sprawl," Jeff Howard, director of system P for IBM, told internetnews.com. "They've got hundreds of these 1U servers out there running Web-tier apps and they are running out of floor space, having issues of power consumption, management issues of trying to resource all of them. We wanted to offer something through server consolidation and virtualization."

IBM introduced three models for server consolidation. The p5 560Q is the most high end of the three. Its starting price is $43,800. It uses a building block method of design that supports up to 80 cores per rack. It comes with the Advanced POWER Virtualization (APV) software for managing the virtual environment.

The next step down is the IBM BladeCenter JS21 for Web serving farms. It can hold up to 14 blades per 1U system, which IBM said would enable customers to consolidate up to 168 x86-based Linux servers into one BladeCenter chassis. It also comes with the APV software. Its starting price is $38,835.

On the low end, there is the 1U System p5 505 Express or the quad-core System p5 505Q Express. Either system is capable of consolidating 12 x86 Linux systems into one box. The System p5 505 Express starts at $3,717, and the quad-core System p5 505Q Express starts at $5,505.

All of the aforementioned hardware will run the ISSLE stack that was announced on Tuesday.

Some believe that server consolidation is a necessary evil after the server sprawl that took place in the past decade. While 32-bit processors have gotten progressively faster, they were still limited to 4GB of addressable memory, which means the computer would max out its capacity very quickly. The System p computers, by contrast, can handle up to 128GB of memory.

Dan Olds, principal analyst for Gabriel Consulting, estimates that most x86 servers running Web-tier applications only run at around 5 percent to 6 percent utilization. "The real gold mine here is going after all the idle x86 boxes. There's a lot of small x86 boxes out there that are barely turning over most of the time," he told internetnews.com

Olds also saluted IBM's services efforts to assist customers in migrating their applications to the new hardware. "The smart thing that they are doing is providing the inexpensive or in some cases free migration. That's huge. It was smart of them and it's a very powerful inducement here," he said.

This article was originally published on internetnews.com.

This article was originally published on Thursday Feb 15th 2007
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