Power-BladeCenter Combo Gets Tweaks for i Shops
May 11, 2009 Timothy Prickett Morgan
As part of the recent batch of Power Systems announcements on April 28, IBM made some important changes to the hardware and software relating to Power-based blade servers and the BladeCenter chassis that makes that subset of the product line usable by the i shops.
First and most importantly, the Virtual I/O Server that runs inside of a PowerVM logical partition and acts as a virtualized interface to disk and tape controllers and their media for the Power-based JS12, JS22, JS23, and JS43 blade servers can now support virtual tape. What this means, in something akin to plain English, is that an i 6.1 partition can invoke native SAVE/RESTORE commands or use Backup Restore Media Services (BRMS) commands and talk through VIOS to the actual iron. Up until now, doing an archive on an i-based Power blade required customers to back the blade up to disk first and then do a tape backup off the disks. IBM is also allowing LTO-4 drives attached to Power blades and their VIOS to read backup tapes from LTO-2, LTO-3, and LTO-4 drives, which greatly helps with migrating from rack and tower Power servers to the blades. The TS2240 and 7214 Model 1U2 LTO-4 tape drives are the only drives that have this virtual tape support, however. Customers need to be on i 6.1 with all the applicable patches, VIOS 2.1.1, and PowerVM’s hypervisor microcode (which is known internally as eFW) at the 3.4.2 level.
The BladeCenter chassis has had a RAID 5 feature for integrated SAS disk modules and their switch for a while, but apparently i 6.1 did not support the RAID 5 parts of the controller and could only do RAID 1 mirroring. Anyway, now RAID 5 is enabled on this SAS switch for i 6.1. The TS2240 tape drive mentioned above physically links to the BladeCenter through this SAS switch, by the way. A BladeCenter chassis can support up to a dozen SAS drives across two six-drive modules and users must create RAID sets for i 6.1 that are separate from Windows partitions used for X64-based blade servers that i shops will want to consolidate onto BladeCenter S office and BladeCenter H data center chasses. The RAID 5 functionality for the SAS switch requires VIOS 2.1.0 or higher and the latest PowerVM firmware (which I presume is also eFW 3.4.2, but IBM didn’t say).
The BladeCenter S i Edition was also tweaked as part of the announcements, with IBM boosting the main memory on the single-core JS12 blade from 2 GB to 4 GB. The setup also includes a new copper pass-though module (which costs $1,299) and i 6.1 and VIOS preinstalled and ready to rock with virtual tape setup. The DS3200 array is also supported on this JS12 entry setup if customers need more storage capacity than the integrated SAS modules offer. The base BladeCenter S i Edition has a JS12 with two 3.8 GHz Power6 cores, 4 GB of memory, two 146 GB SAS disks on the blade, two more in the SAS module with its switch, and a BladeCenter S chassis with all the gadgets needed to link this together, complete with i 6.1 and PowerVM Standard Edition, plus a year of Software Maintenance, for $13,244.