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Sun, Verari intro new blade servers this week

Sun's latest blade server promises the performance of a comparable rack-mount system, while Verari's new blade targets the most space- and storage-constrained shops.

Sun Microsystems Inc. introduced a new blade server today, its Sun Blade X8450 server module with Intel Corp. quad-core Xeon processors, continuing the company's momentum in the blade server market.

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In addition, San Diego, Calif.-based Verari Systems introduced a new blade server on Tuesday, Feb. 19, the BladeRack2 XL, which supports two quad-core processors from Intel or Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) and up to 672 TB of storage in a full 72 blade chassis.

The Sun Blade X8450 is Sun's first quad-core processor based blade, part of the Sun Blade 8000 Modular System, has a total of 16 Intel Xeon processing cores and 32 dual in-line memory module (DIMM) slots -- two DIMMs per core.

Users can also get Sun Blade 8000 systems with AMD Opteron or Sparc processors, along with a choice of operating systems including the Solaris 10 operating system, Linux, Microsoft Windows and VMware.

Sun describes this blade as having the same capabilities as a traditional four-socket rack-mount server stuffed into a blade form factor.

"We have taken all the capabilities of a four-socket rack-mount server and put [them] into a blade form factor without making any compromises whatsoever," said Mike McNerny, the director of blade server product line at Sun. "A lot of blade designs are optimized around two sockets, and four-socket blades tend to get awkward, but this blade is architected in such a way that all of the components of a rack-mount four-socket are in this. Our customers aren't willing to forgo performance for a blade form factor."

The new blade's ability to compete with rack-mount systems is important if it's to be successful with Sun's demanding customers, said Scaramella, a senior research analyst for servers at IDC Corp. "Relative to other blade offerings, the four-socket X8450 is developed to handle high-end applications," he said. "Sun is aiming to deliver full rack server capabilities in a modular form factor; an important component if Sun is to be successful with its target customers workloads of HPC, database, and virtualization; in addition to the Telco customer segment."

HP, IBM blades out-engineered by Sun
Chip Anderson, the president of Redmond, Wash.-based, which supplies real-time financial charts to users via the Internet, switched from IBM BladeCenter blade servers with dual-core 3.0 GHz Intel Xeon processors to 2.8 GHz AMD Opteron dual-core processor-based Sun blades last summer because the IBM servers weren't up to par. servers run number-crunching applications and experience spiky traffic patterns, depending on the day and the stock news, so they needed fast servers that could handle lots of capacity, Anderson said.

Anderson also looked at blade servers from Hewlett-Packard, but said, "HP's engineering didn't seem as solid as Sun's, and we really wanted reliability."

"We had hard-drive failures on our IBM blades and wanted to avoid that. Sun has hot swappable drives in its blades, but we haven't had any hard-drive failures at all," Anderson said. "We found that one Sun blade handled about 30% more capacity than two IBM blades. … Now we won't have to add as many servers."

Anderson said he now uses the IBM blades for other less-intensive applications and the two chassis of Sun blades holding 20 servers handle the number-crunching workloads for without any problems.

Choosing blades isn't without problems, though. Users like Anderson are attracted to blade servers' density, but with density comes heat. Last year when Anderson got the Sun blades, he also upgraded to in-row chillers with cooled water and new power supplies, avoiding potential heat issues in's cramped data center.

Because the Sun Blade X8450 uses the same CPU and memory as a typical rack-mount server, users should be conscious of heat, said Sun's McNerny. "There isn't any magic; there are still power and cooling concerns in data centers when packing servers together. We work with customers to determine their power and cooling capacity."

Sun concedes that the heat generated by blades can pose challenges in some environments. "Not everyone can fill up a rack with blades because of this, but blades are inherently more efficient than a rack-mount servers. They use 15% to 20% less power than a rack-mount, which is a core benefit in addition to the density they allow," McNerny said.

Other features of Sun Blade X8450 include 160 Gbps I/O throughput, two x8 PCI Express (PCIe) lanes, two x4 PCIe lanes with integrated PCIe switching technology and shared infrastructure with no fans or power supplies on the blades.

The new servers will be available in March at a $9,000 starting price.

Verari's blade servers
In other blade server news, on Tuesday, Feb. 19, Verari Systems announced the BladeRack 2 XL for applications such as data warehousing, high-capacity storage clusters, rendering and media streaming, which can drive server counts into the hundreds and even thousands and drive storage capacities into petabytes, said Roger Stoesz, a product manager at Verari Systems.

"The new Verari BladeRack2 XL is the density leader in both storage and compute, enabling the placement of more servers and disks into a floor space budget," said Stoesz.

Verari's new blade server stuffs up to 12 hard disk enclosures into a 1U vertical blade for a capacity of 12 TB and 672 TB in a full BladeRack2 XL system, Stoesz said. The blade also supports two quad-core processors (or eight cores) on a single 1U vertical blade, from either Intel or AMD, for a total of 576 cores in a full rack, he said.

Up to 72 blades fit into a BladeRack2 XL chassis, and the compute and storage blades can be interchanged in the slots.

The BladeRack 2 XL (BR2-XL) platform will be marketed under Verari's BladeRack 2 X-Series of blade-based storage and compute servers. The chassis supports up to 72 single-server nodes and 144 double-server nodes per rack and can incorporate up to 672 cores. The BR2-XL platform also provides 16% denser storage than Verari's BR2-XT series with up to 672 TB of storage per rack.

The Verari Systems BladeRack 2 X-Series platforms uses its proprietary Vertical Cooling Technology, so users can deploy the fastest processors on the market without tremendous heat issues, according to Verari.

Verari did not provide details on pricing, saying that the starting price point for a full rack of BladeRack2 XL servers is competitive with similarly configured traditional rack-mount systems.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, News Writer.

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