Why IBM Flex System is the Best Blade Solution on the Market

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Why IBM Flex System is the Best Blade Solution on the Market
IBM Flex System surpasses blade offerings in every respect
August 2012
Why IBM Flex System is the
Best Blade Solution on the
Mark T. Chapman
IBM Systems and Technology Group
Why IBM Flex System is the Best Blade Solution on the Market
Page 2
Executive Overview
The announcement of IBM® PureSystems™ inaugurated a new era of computing. More than just a
new server or family of servers, PureSystems introduced a new way of thinking about computing,
offering previously unheard-of levels of out-of-the-box integration and built-in expertise. The
PureSystems family offers clients the flexibility to custom-build and tune their configurations, the
simplicity of pre-configured, factory-integrated infrastructure and management, and the control of
pre-integrated platform systems.
IBM PureFlex System™, part of the IBM PureSystems family of expert integrated systems,
combines advanced IBM hardware and software with patterns of expertise and integrates them
into optimized configurations that are simple to acquire and deploy, so you can achieve faster
time to value. IBM Flex System™, the elements that make up IBM PureFlex System, allows you to
build your own system to meet your unique IT requirements with a set of no-compromise
components, including compute, storage, networking and systems management.
• IBM PureFlex System™ — If you need a pre-configured, pre-integrated infrastructure with
integrated management and cloud capabilities, factory tuned from IBM with x86 and IBM
POWER® compute nodes, IBM PureFlex System is the answer.
• IBM Flex System™ — If you want to custom-build and tune a configuration to meet your
specific requirements, using the most advanced blade server in the market with maximum
x86 compute and memory performance, IBM Flex System is the right fit.
Whether you choose IBM PureFlex System or IBM Flex System, you get extraordinary compute
power, storage capability, and networking flexibility with the latest processors and a nocompromise design. Advantages include:
Twice the application density in the same floor space1
Energy costs reductions of up to 40%2
For many customers, the integration and built-in expertise of PureFlex System offerings can save
time and money and produce superior results. But other customers prefer to “roll their own”
configurations. In those cases, IBM Flex System is the preferred offering.
IBM Flex System is quite simply the best blade offering on the market. The rest of this document
explains briefly how and why IBM Flex System outperforms mere blade systems..
IBM Flex System vs. Blade Systems
IBM was one of the pioneers in blade computing, and with a decade of experience in that arena
IBM has learned a lot about what works well and what needs improving. With IBM Flex System
design, IBM has improved every aspect of blade computing, from servers to chassis, to
networking, to storage and I/O, to management.
Briefly, here is the combination of capabilities that Flex System solutions offer and blade systems
from HP, Dell, Cisco and, yes, even IBM BladeCenter , can’t:
Compute Nodes (Blades)
Flex System compute nodes (x220, x240, and x440) offer flexibility no one else can match,
uncompromised processor support, and maximum memory:
A choice of 2- and 4-socket servers, using Intel Xeon processors
Based on IBM testing and documented in IBM System x® Virtualization Server Consolidation sizing methodology. The IBM Flex
System x240 Compute Node supports 2.7X more Peak Utilization Virtual Machines (VMs) than previous generation BladeCenter
Flex System x240 Compute Node requires 40% less energy than earlier-generation Intel x86 processor technology.
Why IBM Flex System is the Best Blade Solution on the Market
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The full range of Intel Xeon E5-2400, E5-2600, and E5-4600 series of CPUs, including the
high-end 130W and 135W processors
Support for up to 768GB (2 sockets) or 1.5TB (4 sockets) of DDR3 memory using 32GB
The industry’s most flexible storage solution offering:
o Hot-swap support for two 2.5-inch SAS/SATA HDDs or Solid State Drives (SSDs), or four
1.8-inch SSDs
o Up to four additional internal fixed SSDs
o A unique implementation of high-speed RAID and flash capability with IBM Flex System
Flash, which supports eight SSDs in the compute nodes (with up to 1.6TB of SSD
storage capacity)
Next-generation PCIe 3.0 adapter slots
The flexibility to add high-IOPS SSDs and GPU solutions via PCIe expansion nodes
Support for up to 8 10Gb Ethernet Virtual Fabric ports per server and support for up to 32
vNICs per server
The industry’s widest support of I/O technologies, including Ethernet, Fibre Channel, Fibre
Channel Over Ethernet (FCoE, planned), iSCSI, and InfiniBand
Virtualization support for KVM, VMware, or Microsoft Hyper-V
OS support for Microsoft Windows, and Linux from Red Hat and SUSE
Full redundancy, including redundant hypervisors on dual flash keys, for no single point of
Benefits include:
Choice, ranging from price-optimized entry nodes to nodes providing the performance
required by the most demanding workloads
Maximum performance, due to industry-leading memory capabilities and top-end processors
Up to 50% more memory capacity than HP3
Unlike competitive chassis offerings that may have compromised support of future technologies,
the IBM Flex System Enterprise chassis is designed for multiple generations of technology. It
14 standard-width or 7 full-width bays, or any combination, for
compute nodes, storage nodes, and expansion nodes
Four scalable high-speed switch bays
Support for 40Gb Ethernet networking
Node-to-node traffic contained within the chassis, to significantly
reduce Top-of-Rack (ToR) switch latency
Integrated chassis management
Headroom to support future power and cooling needs:
o Up to six 2500W power supplies (with N+N multipleredundancy or N+1 single-redundancy)
o Up to eight scalable fans
Full redundancy of power, cooling, I/O, and other major components
IBM Flex System x240 (768GB) compared to HP BL 460c Gen8 (512GB).
Why IBM Flex System is the Best Blade Solution on the Market
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Benefits include:
High resiliency for maximum uptime
Maximum flexibility, supporting multiple fabrics, standard- and double-width compute nodes,
and maximum growth potential as new generations of technology emerge
One of the biggest bottlenecks for most chassis is networking bandwidth. The Flex System
Enterprise chassis design provides more networking flexibility and growth potential than other
blade offerings:
Scalable switching, allowing the user to upgrade connectivity/features, without rip-andreplace.
Support for present and future networking technologies: 1Gb, 10Gb, 40Gb Ethernet, and
The industry’s first 40Gb-capable blade Ethernet uplink switch, 16Gb-capable blade SAN
switch, and 56Gb-capable InfiniBand FDR (Fourteen Data Rate) switch.
Support for 40Gb Ethernet uplinks for reduced cabling to ToR switches.
Support for Fibre Channel options ranging from low-cost 8GB to highly scalable16Gb
switches for maximum performance.
Feature on Demand (FoD) iSCSI features and upgrades dynamically via software upgrade
without hardware outages (avoiding the rip-and-replace approach of some competitive
Support for the IBM Distributed Virtual Switch 5000V for easy management and switching of
VMs in a VMware environment.
Embedded L2/L3 chassis switching to enable a lowest-latency, highest-bandwidth connection
for East-West traffic, without involving the Top-of-Rack switches for in-chassis
communication. This cuts latency by as much as half.
10Gb Ethernet pass-thru for easy, unmanaged connectivity of the Flex System Enterprise
Chassis to any external network infrastructure.
Benefits include:
Up to 3X the networking bandwidth offered by HP.4
The flexibility to start small and grow when you’re ready. You’re not locked into today’s
Storage and I/O
An IBM Flex System solution offers the best combination of internal and external storage and I/O
• IBM Flex System Flash offers unmatched dedicated storage, with up to 8 enterprise SSDs
(1.6TB) in a Flex System compute node, including an SSD-optimized 1GB Super-Capacitorbacked IBM ServeRAID® adapter. It provides up to 475K IOPS for superior database
performance with distributed database applications, business analytics and intelligence
workloads, transaction processing, and media streaming.
• IBM Storwize® V7000, with up to 12 hot-swap 3.5-inch HDDs (up to 36TB) or 24 hot-swap
2.5-inch SSDs or HDDs, offers the ability to virtualize IBM and third-party storage with
nondisruptive migration of the current storage infrastructure. Virtualized storage inherits all of
the storage’s rich function, including FlashCopy, Easy Tier, and thin provisioning. Storwize
IBM Flex System Fabric EN4093 10Gb Scalable Switch has a maximum of 240Gb bandwidth, compared to the HP Flex 10 10Gb
switch’s limit of only 80Gb bandwidth.
Why IBM Flex System is the Best Blade Solution on the Market
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V7000 supports integrated realtime compression, enabling storage of up to 5X as much
active primary data in the same physical space for extraordinary levels of efficiency.
IBM Flex System PCIe Expansion Node offers unprecedented PCIe expansion capabilities
in a blade type environment. The node supports 2 standard full-height, full-length PCIe Gen 3
slots, and two low-profile PCIe Gen 3 slots. Because it accepts standard PCIe cards, it
supports graphics, I/O, and storage adapters, including controllers for external storage
servers and SAN adapters.
Benefits include:
Up to 3X the dedicated storage for compute nodes, compared to Dell5
Reduced storage needs via realtime compression
Data automatically optimized among HDDs and SSDs on the node’s tiered storage for better
Systems Management
For today data centers, IT management is always a challenge. Often it is too complex and
requires too many on-site visits and too much hands-on time. What’s needed is simplified
systems management.
IBM Flex System Manager provides a pre-integrated and virtualized management environment
across servers, storage, and networking that is easily managed remotely from a single interface.
It’s one tool to manage all physical and virtual resources. Features include:
A new user interface with a chassis map and overlays, global search, and setup wizards,
which enables a better management experience and reduces time and steps for most
common tasks
Extensive automation capabilities to help you bring new components online faster
Cross-resource integration to manage applications and workloads, instead of components.
Real-time management of systems and workloads on Day One, right out of the box.
Switch-neutrality (works with pass-thru modules).
Scalable management as your system grows.
Compatibility with the management you already have: other IBM platform tools, including
Tivoli®, and third-party enterprise management (e.g., CA, BMC, HP, etc.).
Benefits include:
Management integration of resource pools across compute, storage and networking reduces
management costs up to 50%6
Integrated, automated storage provisioning in up to 98% less time
Up to 66% faster set-up time8
IBM Flex System Flash on the x240 Compute Node supports up to 3.2TB, compared to Dell M610 with only 800GB.
Source: ITG whitepaper, “Value Proposition for IBM Next Generation Platform System”. ITG interviewed a group of companies
“before” PureFlex System and “after” PureFlex System. The results from the group of 6 companies had a peak predicted
administrator efficiency improvement of 57% and an average of 42%. IBM PureFlex System and IBM Flex System solutions benefit
similarly from the use of the IBM Flex System Manager.
IBM internal Research & Development estimate comparing VMControl’s ability to automatically provision storage to a VM (90second duration) vs. 2 administrators (storage and server admins) allocating the storage manually without VMControl (2-hour
duration). Specific client environments and results may vary.
Based on IBM internal Research & Development estimates and measurements. The management server setup for IBM Flex
System takes 131 minutes. Equivalent setup for BladeCenter takes 388 minutes. This is based on the “build to order” approach,
and is therefore very conservative. In other words, if we were to consider the preconfigured options (Express, Standard, and
Enterprise), the savings would be far larger. Only the 66% savings is claimed for conservatism. Compared to previous-generation
blade servers.
Why IBM Flex System is the Best Blade Solution on the Market
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IBM Fabric Manager (the evolution of BladeCenter Open Fabric Manager), an optional easy-touse server provisioning I/O management tool, automates deployment steps, reduces errors, and
makes administrators more efficient. Features include:
• Automatic provisioning of I/O addresses
Pre-defined configurations of I/O parameters, such as MAC addresses for Ethernet, World
Wide Names and SAN boot targets
I/O parameter and VLAN migration to standby compute nodes in case of compute node
failure, and executes action plans based on triggered events
Benefits include:
• Faster server deployment times
• Saving system administrators from doing repetitive and potentially error-prone tasks
A view of data center operations with event triggers and problem notifications
The IBM Flex System offering provides performance, flexibility, and investment protection that no
other blade offering can match. An IBM Flex System solution delivers:
• The industry’s first single management tool for all physical resources
• The first storage virtualization solution for internal and external storage
The first E5-2600-equipped blade to offer 768GB memory capacity for all processor
The first high-IOPS flash storage node/blade for unmatched dedicated storage flexibility
The first 40GbE-capable blade uplink switch
The first 16Gb-capable blade SAN switch
The first 56Gb-capable blade InfiniBand FDR switch
With the best blades, chassis, networking, storage, and management capabilities, an IBM Flex
System solution surpasses blades in every respect9.
For more details about the products and technologies, contact an IBM sales rep or business
partner, or go to http://ibm.com/systems/pureflex/flex_overview.html.
For clients with existing BladeCenter investments, IBM has a committed roadmap. For more information, contact your business
partner or IBM representative.
Why IBM Flex System is the Best Blade Solution on the Market
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For More Information
IBM Flex System Servers
IBM PureSystems Expert Integrated Systems
IBM System x and BladeCenter Power Configurator
IBM Standalone Solutions Configuration Tool
IBM Configuration and Options Guide
IBM ServerProven Program
Technical Support
Other Technical Support Resources
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August 2012
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MB, GB and TB = 1,000,000, 1,000,000,000 and
1,000,000,000,000 bytes, respectively, when referring to
storage capacity. Accessible capacity is less; up to 3GB is
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