Penguin also offers an interesting SATA (Serial ATA) disk blades option thats suitable for sites looking for more blade storage. The expansion SATA disk blades can support RAID 0 and 1, and two SATA blades can be mirrored in a RAID 10 configuration. This optional setup consists of a standard server blade with a four-channel SATA minibackplane attached to two disk blades, and each disk blade can be outfitted with two 250GB SATA drives. This configuration will reduce processor density in favor of more internal storage capacity. Pricing for this option starts at $3,100 per blade.Using the BladeRunner in noncluster environments will require that IT managers use third-party tools for provisioning and image deployment. Competitors such as HP and Sun, in contrast, package their blades with strong management suitesHPs ProLiant Essentials Rapid Deployment Pack and Suns N1 Grid Provisioning Server, respectively. Our test system had Beowulf preinstalled, and we easily configured a five-node Beowulf cluster during tests using the BeoSetup GUI. The BeoSetup GUI provides a single administration point for the entire cluster and runs on the master node. Adding nodes to the cluster was a simple drag-and-drop procedure, but we also could have used the command line. The GUI provides a useful at-a-glance window, BeoStatus, for monitoring cluster performance metrics such as CPU load, memory usage and disk usage. Scyld Beowulf provides advanced cluster administration features such as job mapping and file system replication. During tests, we powered off a compute node, and the internal job mapper automatically stopped running jobs on the unavailable resources. When we powered the blade back on, the system automatically detected the node and rejoined the blade to the cluster. We ran the compute nodes as diskless blades, but IT managers can install hard drives on the nodes and use the storage space for caching or storing local copies of data sets. BeoSetup can be configured to automatically check and re-create the node file systems without user intervention. During tests, we managed our BladeRunner system through the integrated management port in the eight-port Gigabit switch. The integrated management software can be accessed remotely via SNMP, the command line or the Web interface. We found the Web interface easy to use, offering quick links to system health status and hardware information. The Web interface also provides links to switch management information such as the process for setting up VLANs (virtual LANs), but Linux-savvy administrators will likely be better off using the command-line interface via the serial console or Telnet. Technical Analyst Francis Chu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.
IT managers who use the BladeRunner for Linux cluster applications can easily administer and provision nodes using Scyld Beowulfs built-in provisioning features.