IBM Paints X64-Based BladeCenters Sky Blue With Clouds
August 15, 2011 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Sometimes I wonder if IBM really wants Power Systems machinery to compete with X64-based servers–be they its own System x and BladeCenter machines or those of its competitors.
Last week, IBM announced some preconfigured bundles of BladeCenter blade servers called Foundation for Clouds. I am getting the feeling that Big Blue’s marketeers are falling under the same hypnotic spell as all of the cloud vendors that sell hypervisors and their cloudy management extensions on X64-based machinery. That is, cloud has become synonymous with X64-based machinery. If it ain’t on X64, then it ain’t a cloud.
This is, of course, perfectly stupid. You can absolutely take a collection of Power Systems servers and their PowerVM hypervisor and a collection of Tivoli systems management and provisioning tools and make a cloud. But IBM’s BladeCenter Foundation for Clouds, in announcement letter 111-156, the foundation is IBM’s HS22 and HS22V Xeon 5600 blade servers (the latter having a fatter memory profile) and its HX5 blades, which are based on Xeon 7500 and E7 processors. All three are two-socket servers. IBM tosses in some Emulex 10 Gigabit Ethernet virtual fabric adapters for the blades and low-voltage memory to make it energy efficient. It also has a version of the BladeCenter chassis (in a separate announcement in letter 111-158) with redundant 2,980 power supplies, blowers, and management modules called the BladeCenter Foundation for Cloud Chassis. This chassis doesn’t include integrated switches or pass-thru modules to link to top-of-rack switches (which it definitely needs), and interestingly the announcement says that the chassis supports a slew of Xeon, Opteron, Power, and Cell blades. But the only official BladeCenter Foundation for Cloud blade servers announced were, as I said above, are the HS22, HS22V, and HX5.
More perplexingly, the chassis is not designated as supporting the PS7XX line of Power7-based blade servers, just the old Power6+-based JS23 and JS43 blades. Yup, this makes no sense.
The situation is actually quite simple. If IBM wants to be taken seriously as a cloud provider and wants its Power-based servers to live in a cloudy future, it needs to go back to the drawing board and create complete, integrated cloudy stacks based on Power7 rack and tower servers with its PowerVM hypervisor, all ready to go to support virtualized applications. And then it has to demonstrate why a Power-based server is better for certain workloads than a Xeon or Opteron box. This half-hearted, incomplete approach is just not going to cut it.