New IBM Flex Systems Aim for Greater Density, Performance

The IBM systems run on Power7+ or Intel Xeon chips and will help organizations run clouds in smaller data centers.

IBM officials are unveiling new Power- and x86-based servers to the company’s Flex System lineup to help enterprises and service providers that are shifting more workloads to the cloud to consolidate their data center infrastructures while making them higher performing and more scalable.

The company is offering three new systems that run on its Power 7+ processors and a fourth system, the x222, powered by x86 chips. In addition, IBM has enhanced its Flex System Manager to enable organizations to manage as many as 5,000 infrastructure end points from any location via Apple iOS, Google Android or BlackBerry mobile devices, and is announcing new networking switches and fabrics that increase bandwidth up to 40Gbits, which not only improves connectivity and performance but also helps in the deployment of software-defined networks (SDNs).

IBM is driving Flex System to meet the demand from organizations or the ability to do more in smaller data centers in their increasingly cloud-based and virtualized environments, Jeff Howard, IBM’s vice president for Flex System and PureFlex, told eWEEK. It also comes at a time when organizations are rapidly moving more workloads to the cloud.

Pointing to a Morgan Stanley report, Howard said that by next year, businesses will be running 62 percent of their database workloads in the cloud. With the new offerings, IBM wants to enable organizations to essentially put more capabilities—from compute to storage to memory to processing power—into the Flex System 10U (17.5-inch) chassis, Howard said. Businesses and service providers will more easily run and manage more workloads in the cloud.

The new Power 7+ compute nodes address the needs of businesses and managed service providers both large and small. The Flex System p460 is a full-width compute module that is aimed at large high-end workloads that demand single-threaded computing, such as databases, which are increasingly finding their way into the cloud, according to Howard. The system will run up to four eight-core Power 7+ chips.

At the same time, the p270—with two six-core Power7+ chips running at either 3.1GHz or 3.4GHz—can process workloads that need multi-threaded performance, such data analytics, Web serving and technical computing. The entry-level p260 node is targeting IBM i workloads, making it easier for smaller businesses to make the transition into the Flex System environment, Howard said.

In the x86 space, the x222 will be able to run two Xeon E5 chips from Intel in each socket, which will mean the ability to run 28 processors in a single rack chassis. It will work well in virtualized environments, including virtual desktop infrastructures, he said. Each 10U chassis will be able to run 2,800 Windows 7 virtualized desktop images.

IBM was able to optimize the density of the x222 by engineering a design where the system opens in a clamshell fashion, with one module in the lid and another in the other section, Howard said.

All four servers will be available in September.

The upgraded Flex System Manager software gives users a centralized way to manage the system and deploy virtual machines. In addition, it offers a “fuel gauge” to let users know how much of the management capability they are using and how much more they have to go before they need to add more capacity. In addition, through the enhanced software, organizations can now manage IBM’s System x3950, which is optimized for SAP HANA in-memory database environments.