IBM expands server cluster technology

IBM has introduced what is being touted as the largest ever preconfigured server cluster for running commercial Unix...

IBM has introduced what is being touted as the largest ever preconfigured server cluster for running commercial Unix applications.

IBM's new eServer Cluster 1600 is available in pretested, fully integrated configurations of up to 32 IBM eServer p690 32-processor systems and 32 IBM eServer p670 16-way systems.

The clusters are being positioned both as server consolidation platforms and for commercial applications, such as large databases, that need the scalability and processing power only large clusters can deliver, Barbara Butler, a director in IBM's eServer business unit, said.

Prices for an eServer Cluster 1600 with two 32-way p690 servers with up to 32 partitions and a control workstation start at about $2.4m (£1.5m).

The clusters take advantage of IBM's high-performance General Parallel File System technology and the same management software found on the company's SP supercomputers. The technology allows IBM to build large server clusters that can be monitored and managed from a central point of control.

However unlike SP clusters, which are built using a large number of relatively small servers, the eServer Cluster 1600 is based on IBM's highly scalable p690 and p670 servers, which can be partitioned into multiple, smaller systems.

The advantage for users is that they can now build large clusters using fewer servers, thereby making the clusters easier to manage and deploy, Butler said.

IBM's announcement builds on a growing trend in the industry, said Jonathan Eunice, an analyst at consultancy Illuminata.

Over the past two years, leading hardware vendors such as IBM, Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard have been trying to move clustering technology from its high-performance computing niche to more commercial uses by offering easy-to-deploy preconfigured clusters, he said. IBM's latest move appears to be the biggest example of this trend so far, he noted.

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