IBM set to roll Opteron-based blade

IBM this week will uncrate its first Opteron-based blade server in an effort to expand hardware options for customers, especially those in financial and research industries that depend on high-performance computing.

The Opteron-based LS20 for IBM's BladeCenter is the third system, and only the second server, offered by IBM on the AMD platform. Big Blue also offers a rack-mount server and a workstation using the 32/64-bit Opteron processor.

IBM was the first major systems vendor to have an Opteron server when it introduced its eServer 325 in July 2003. Since then, however, Sun and HP have become stronger Opteron backers, offering a broader range of AMD servers. HP, for example, introduced two Opteron-based blade servers -- the BL25p and the BL35p -- earlier this year.

"HP is focusing Opteron more broadly than IBM," says Gordon Haff, an analyst with Illuminata. "IBM very much has Opteron constrained within high-performance computing."

Indicative of that is the fact that IBM is positioning the LS20 is a key part of its prepackaged eServer Cluster 1350. It also announced that it is expanding the switch and interconnect options available with the Cluster 1350. In addition to Topspin InfiniBand switches, for example, the cluster also will support the scalable Voltaire InfiniBand Switch Router 9288 with up to 10G bit/sec of bandwidth, IBM says. The Voltaire box will let users more efficiently route traffic in a data center between servers and network-attached storage (NAS).

Jeffrey Skolnick, director of the Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics at the University at Buffalo, has been using the Cluster 1350 for about a year, running algorithms to predict protein structure and function for use in drug discovery.

The Cluster 1350 more than doubled the speed of the Center's previous cluster and Skolnick says he plans to test out performance using LS20 nodes.

In addition to the LS20, the Cluster 1350 also will support new dual-core Opteron-based eServer 326, as well as the eServer OpenPower 710 and 720 for management and storage nodes, enabling customers to build entirely Power-based clusters, Dougherty says.

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