IBM is looking to become the backbone of Web 2.0.
At the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco April 22, IBM will unveil the iDataPlex, an x86-based server system that the company will begin selling to Web 2.0 companies as well as enterprises that need high-performance computing capabilities.
The iDataPlex system supplies about 100 Intel-based servers in a standard-42U (73.5-inch)-rack cabinet to companies that are building out a Web 2.0 infrastructure. This market is expected to grow 43 percent each year for the next five years, with enterprises spending $4.6 billion on Web 2.0 technologies by 2013, according to a report by Forrester Research.
With this potential for growth, IBM is looking to supply the infrastructure needed to sustain these Web 2.0 environments. In addition to iDataPlex, the company has begun a program called “Blue Cloud,” which looks to supply the infrastructure for Web hosting and cloud computing both at the enterprise and the university level.
Since the need for servers within Web 2.0 is increasing along with the size of the average power bill, IBM has crammed its cooling technology into the iDataPlex system so that systems require little or no air conditioning, said Wendy McGee, director of IBM’s Web 2.0 business unit.
The iDataPlex can use IBM’s Rear Door Heat Exchanger-also known as “Cool Blue”-which is a series of sealed tubes within the cabinet that are filled with chilled water that helps cool the heated air before it comes out of the servers. IBM engineers also rotated the racks within the cabinet, which creates an environment that is wide but not deep, and allows the company to squeeze more servers into the system while leaving room for switches.
The result is a system that requires 40 percent less power, but can supply five times the computing power of other systems used within Web 2.0 environments, McGee said.
With these and any other technologies, McGee said IBM’s system not only has an advantage over other systems built by top-tier vendors, but also over white-box systems that are used with these massive server farms.
“A lot of these companies don’t have the IT engineering expertise to build their own servers,” McGee said. “IBM as a global provider can build a system that is based on whatever type of applications a company is running. We can customize the servers for you, which use less power [and] are built with industry-standard parts, integrate the switches and provide this at a competitive rate.”
Designed to Allow for Failures
Unlike with other x86 servers within IBM’s System x portfolio, the company deemphasized high availability and fault tolerance with the iDataPlex. McGee said in Web 2.0 environments redundancy is typically handled by the software running the environment.
Joe Clabby, president of Clabby Analytics, said this aspect of the new system is probably the most innovative part of the design as it will allow customers to easily swap components in and out of the iDataPlex, while helping to reduce the overall cost.
“This architecture has been designed to allow for failures-and fix-ups on the fly,” Clabby wrote in an e-mail. “This is a big departure from the constant focus on high availability, fault tolerance, disaster recovery and all the other must-haves for enterprise computing environments. Taking out redundant parts reduces development and testing costs-you don’t have to over-design for business resiliency-and it also helps significantly reduce system cost.”
For now, the only other system vendors embracing this type of design are Verari Systems and Rackable Systems. But Clabby said he believes that other OEMs will follow IBM’s lead if it proves successful. The difference between these smaller players and IBM right now is that IBM has the ability to tap a worldwide distribution network and its manufacturing facilities in China.
“IBM has just validated their markets,” Clabby wrote.
Besides working for Web 2.0 companies, McGee said the iDataPlex can also work in the new types of HPC environments that financial-services enterprises and other businesses are beginning to explore in order to harness more processing power without investing in a more traditional supercomputer.
When the iDataPlex System officially goes on sale June 2, IBM will offer a combination of 22 different configurations with a choice of 1U (1.75-inch) or 2U (3.5-inch) x86-based servers and a choice of switches from Cisco Systems, QLogic and others. Blade Network Technologies built a new Ethernet switch, the RackSwitch G8000, specifically for the system.
All of the servers that IBM will use within the iDataPlex rack are based on Intel’s “Bensley” dual-socket platform, which supports a number of different dual-core Xeon processors from both the 65-nanometer and 45-nanometer families. McGee said the iDataPlex also works with any storage array that supports IBM’s System x servers.
The new system also offers customers a choice between Novell and Red Hat Linux and supports xCat (Extreme Cluster Administration Toolkit), an open-source cluster management tool.