IBM introduces eServer cluster for Unix, Linux

IBM will soon release eServer clusters for Unix and Linux built on advanced system management software and the file system used in its SP supercomputer with the aim of letting customers control as many as 32 rack systems from one workstation.

Code-named Blue Hammer, the clusters are for companies with large server farms, including ISPs (Internet service providers), ASPs (application service providers), corporations with large data warehouse systems, and those that operate many and diverse applications. The clusters are suited for running ERP (enterprise resource planning) and CRM (customer relationship management) systems.

The AIX clusters will be out by the end of this month, said David Gelardi, IBM director of Linux Solutions. The entry-level price for AIX clusters is US$31,795 per node. Linux clusters, due out in the third quarter, have not yet been priced.

The Unix version clusters up to 32 two- to eight-way IBM M80 machines or one- to six-way H80 servers running AIX. Both of those mid-range servers can be clustered with large-scale eServer p680 or S80 servers. The M80, H80, S80 and p680 can be attached to an SP supercomputer.

Daimler Chrysler AG plans to make M80s the "main workhorse" at its data center in Center Line, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, said Mike Kasperek, team leader of AIX support there, who has been "overall satisfied" with IBM's product line for mission-critical systems. EServer clusters will come in handy as the company makes the move to more M80s.

"It's going to recover a lot of floor space in our data center," he said.

M80s are smaller rack-mounted servers and three of those (or three H80s as well) will fit in a single 19-inch rack.

Daimler Chrysler primarily runs AIX at the data center, but is interested in moving toward Linux, which will offer the ability to decrease software costs because it offers the ability to run Apache or other less expensive server software, Kasperek.

Blue Hammer relies on the SP supercomputer's Parallel System Support Programs (PSSP) cluster management software and its General Parallel File System (GPFS) software.

Both applications were used for the Sydney Olympics Web site, which had some 11.3 billion daily hits. PSSP allows administrators to manage multiple -- hundreds in some shops -- servers with all of the administrative functions in the cluster. Administrators can handle control functions from one point. GPFS allows shared file access across all of the nodes in the cluster and scales to 9T bytes.

With the clustering node file system "any server can get any file on any other server without having to log into that other server," said Jean Bozman, research director for the worldwide server group at market researcher International Data Corp.

The upcoming release of the eServer clusters on Unix and Linux could signal a change in IBM's approach because the company "has been fairly low key up until now" regarding those markets, she said. Competitors Sun Microsystems Inc. and Compaq Computer Corp. have made more noise.

The push is a component of IBM's Linux strategy and involves taking some of the company's core technologies to that OS. "It's a way to capture Linux back into the enterprise," Gelardi said. The company can take its SP technologies and experience and help solve Linux scaling problems, he said.

IBM, in Armonk, New York, can be reached at +1-914-499-1900 or http://www.ibm.com/.

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