By Francis Chu  |  Posted 2005-01-10 Print this article Print

Penguin Computing Inc.s first blade system, the BladeRunner, is a cluster-ready Linux solution with a reasonable price tag. eWEEK Labs tests show that the BladeRunner is a good choice for server consolidation projects or for high-density Linux computing clusters in midsize companies.

At first glance, the BladeRunner is a typical Intel Corp.-based midrange blade system targeted at departmental environments. But Penguin also sells the BladeRunner preinstalled with the Scyld Beowulf cluster operating system from Scyld Software, a Penguin Computing company, providing enterprises with a cluster-ready blade system out of the box.

BladeRunner server blades are equipped with Low Voltage Intel Xeon processors, which support speeds of 2GHz and 2.4GHz. The blades have a 533MHz FSB (front-side bus) with two DIMM (dual in-line memory module) slots that can hold up to 4GB of memory. Dual on-board Gigabit Ethernet chips provide standard Wake on LAN and Preboot Execution Environment features.

The $23,400 BladeRunner we tested is an entry-level cluster in a box. The server blades in the system were configured as one master node and a cluster of five compute nodes. The master-node blade had dual 2.4GHz LV Xeon processors, 2GB of memory and a 60GB hard drive. The compute-node blades had the same chip and amount of memory but were running headless (without any internal hard drive).

The BladeRunners compact 4U (7-inch) chassis makes it a good fit for high-density computing . Supporting up to 12 dual Xeon processor blades per chassis, the BladeRunner can populate an industry-standard rack with as many as 240 processors in 120 Linux cluster nodes.

The BladeRunner competes with other Tier 1 blades such as Dell Inc.s PowerEdge 1655MC, Hewlett-Packard Co.s ProLiant BL20p and Sun Microsystems Inc.s Sun Fire B1600.

The BladeRunner falls short of its rivals when it comes to hardware: It doesnt support 64-bit Xeon processors and uses slower memory and slower FSB.

The BladeRunner falls between its competitors in terms of maximum blade density. Both the Sun Fire B1600 and ProLiant BL20p support as many as 16 blades per chassis, although the ProLiant chassis is bigger, while the PowerEdge 1655MC supports as many as six blades per chassis.

The BladeRunners chassis is easily serviceable and has good redundancy features. The chassis has four 660-watt power supplies in a 3+1 configuration, three fan cages with four hot-pluggable fans, a Gigabit Ethernet switch with as many as eight ports with an integrated system management processor and a built-in KVM (keyboard, video and mouse)/KVM-over-IP module. (The BladeRunner can support two Gigabit Ethernet switches running in tandem for high availability.)

The BladeRunner chassis isnt as expandable as higher-end systems on the market, including IBMs BladeCenter or HPs ProLiant BL40p, because it does not support Fibre Channel or InfiniBand switching options. The BladeRunner is still well-equipped to handle departmental environments—server blades come standard with a PCI-X Mezzanine Card to support a Fibre Channel interface or an additional network port, a less expensive option for connecting the BladeRunner to external storage systems.

The BladeRunner uses mobile ATA hard drives for internal blade storage, similar to the Sun Fire B1600. Each BladeRunner blade server can accommodate two 60GB, 5,400-rpm mobile ATA drives.

Next page: SATA disk blades option.


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