IBM Hammers Out AIX, Linux Clusters

IT managers say forthcoming 'Blue Hammer' eServer offerings promise affordability, scalability

IT managers awaiting the release of eServer clusters for Unix and Linux said IBM has given them two good reasons to try the offerings: time and money. Due within the next two months and code-named Blue Hammer, the clusters will allow customers to save both by managing up to 32 eServer rack systems from a single workstation.

Each version will feature IBMs SP supercomputer PSSP (Parallel System Support Programs) cluster management and GPFS (General Parallel File System) software. PSSP lets users install and configure an operating system from a single point and keep files synchronized across servers. The GPFS software allows shared access to files across all nodes in a cluster.

"This definitely makes it a lot easier from a management standpoint, even for things like replacing boxes," said Mike Kasperek, team leader of AIX support for DaimlerChrysler Corp., in Center Line, Mich. "This fulfills a need weve been asking them for to begin with."

DaimlerChrysler plans to upgrade to IBMs M80 servers with the Unix cluster, Kasperek said.

Also interested in using the technology is Audio Video Messenger Software Inc., which runs the audio and video messaging site The company has two RS/6000 machines, 10 Windows NT boxes and a half-dozen Linux boxes, said Jason Katz, AVMs founder and CEO, in New York.

"Its very unwieldy," Katz said. Savings will be "both time and cost. Just the ability to restart those machines in one [action] is very important."

Katz said he expects to see more emphasis on clustering software in the future. "I think everybody is going to a much more scalable architecture," he said. "They are addressing a valid need—thats for sure."

Dave Turek, vice president of deep computing for IBMs Web servers unit, said the clusters will provide customers with unprecedented scalability and affordability.

"Were moving away from the mantra some companies had that the way you do something is build progressively bigger and bigger SMPs [symmetric multiprocessing systems]," said Turek, in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. He added that IBMs goal is to spread its clustering technology across its portfolio.

The Unix version, due next month, will be able to cluster up to 32 two-way to eight-way IBM M80 servers or up to 32 one-way to six-way IBM H80 servers running AIX. The midrange M80 and H80 servers can be clustered with the higher-powered p680 or S80 servers. Pricing for the Unix version of Blue Hammer, including the management software, starts at $32,000 per node.

The Linux version will provide management for clusters of up to 32 two-way IBM eServer x330 Intel-based machines. Pricing for the Linux version, slated for availability in May, has not yet been announced.

The announcement also re- emphasizes IBMs recent focus on Linux. "This is a continuation of IBMs previously announced initiatives to bring its SP technology to Linux, a commodity market, and evidence that IBM is serious about its Linux strategy," said Stacey Quandt, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc., in Santa Clara, Calif.

Quandt said IBM competitors such as Compaq Computer Corp., Silicon Graphics Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. also are looking to Linux these days, but "IBM is moving much faster to leverage the combined strengths of Unix and SP technology to further enhance the price and performance of Linux computational clusters."

More extensions will be announced this summer, with the technology rollout continuing with two to three software releases a year, according to Turek.