By Francis Chu  |  Posted 2004-09-27 Print this article Print

In eWEEK Labs tests of RLX Technologies Inc.s Control Tower 6G, the sixth generation of the companys blade management platform, we found new advanced capabilities and welcome refinements. IT managers looking for an easy-to-use and intuitive blade management system should consider the CT 6G.

The RLX Control Tower 6G Standard Edition we tested was installed on a single-CPU server running Linux. The CT 6G Standard Edition supports as many as 250 blade servers and is priced starting at $5,000.

RLX also sells a CT 6G Enterprise Edition for managing as many as 1,000 blade servers. The Enterprise Edition runs on a dual-processor server with RAID and more memory than the Standard Edition has. Pricing for the CT 6G Enterprise Edition starts at $12,000.

Both editions of the CT 6G are available only in appliance form; IBM and Hewlett-Packard Co., in contrast, sell their respective management tools as software.

RLXs appliance form factor eases deployments and avoids messy installations; it also means that IT managers cannot set up blade management systems using existing hardware. RLX officials said they have no plans to offer software versions of CT G6 at this time.

The CT 6G Standard Edition we tested is customizable based on different management modules and several add-on options, offering IT managers the flexibility to choose the level of management capability they want to have in their environment.

The RLX Provisioning Manager and Task Manager provide server deployment and system maintenance, respectively. The Workload Inspector monitors server health and resource connectivity, while the Automation Policy Manager allows administrators to define rules and policies so that the blades will automatically perform certain actions once thresholds are crossed.

In our tests, we were most impressed with RLX Control Tower 6Gs easy-to-use and intuitive Web console. The GUI is menu-driven and very functional. For example, we could launch all administration tasks using a single Web browser window and gain access to blade server status or monitoring tasks with just a few mouse clicks.

We did find that the console took awhile to load and refresh with graphics-intensive pages. However, administrators should find the lag (usually 5 to 10 seconds) tolerable because the system is gathering a large amount of information. For example, the Manage page shows what RLX calls "virtual presence," a view that actually shows the chassis with the current LCD status of the blades .

In tests, we found server provisioning to be a breeze using the CT 6G. We could use the set of predefined task chains (similar to scripts used in other deployment solutions) and pick canned tasks to capture system images or to deploy a new operating system onto a blade.

The CT 6G separates task chains into groups—such as operating systems, deployment, BIOS or blade agents—so that commands and tasks can be found easily. We could also create our own custom task profiles.

RLXs high-end blade platform has not been revamped since our last review. The RLX System 600ex chassis and ServerBlade 2800i have the same hardware components, although a processor upgrade is in the works for next quarter, company officials said. (Intel Corp.s Xeon Extended Memory 64 Technology, or EM64T, will be introduced into the blade server line.)

Our testbed consisted of a 6U (10.5-inch) RLX System 600ex chassis (priced at $4,500) with standard midplane, three redundant hot-swap power supplies and a management switch. The 600ex chassis supports as many as 10 HPC ServerBlades and can be outfitted with redundant Gigabit networking, Fibre Channel and InfiniBand switches.

Each HPC ServerBlade can be configured with one or two Xeon processors, with speeds ranging from 2.6GHz to 3.2GHz; four DIMM (dual in-line memory module) slots for maximum memory capacity of 8GB; up to two 60GB IDE drives; dual on-board Gigabit NICs; and dual 10/100 management NICs.

During tests, we used five RLX 2800i ServerBlades, each priced at $4,800 and configured with a single 2.8GHz Xeon processor, 4GB of memory and a 60GB hard drive.

Unlike HP and IBM, RLX does not currently offer SCSI storage options on its blades, making the RLX blades more suitable for headless environments.

Technical Analyst Francis Chu can be reached at francis_chu@ziffdavis.com.

Check out eWEEK.coms Infrastructure Center at http://infrastructure.eweek.com for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.


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