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Hardware Today: Looking Beyond Big Page 2

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted Sep 13, 2005


Dual-Core and Diskless

Colfax International of Sunnyvale, Calif., which has been in business since 1987, caters to high-end scientific research and other performance-driven applications for digital entertainment render farms, oil and gas exploration, governments, financial services, and educational institutions. It has Intel- and AMD-based rackmount and pedestal servers from 1U to 8U. Rather than just selling the hardware, it ships complete compute packages.

"Our specialties include full rackmount, top-to-bottom solutions with full cabling, labeling, burn-in and quality assurance," says Michael Fay, Colfax's vice president of sales. "We will load the operating systems, the full application stack, and optimize the hardware and software before shipping it to our clients worldwide."

The company's 8U storage server comes with dual AMD Opteron 200 series processors, up to 16 GB of DDR RAM and 40 hot-swappable SATA drives. For clusters, it has 1U compute nodes with dual Opteron processors and has recently added three new 1U boxes (models 890, 1080, and 1081), which use Intel processors. The 890 has two Xeon processors, while the 1080 and 1081 use the dual-core Pentium D processors. The cluster nodes can ship with or without hard drives.

"Currently we ship a number of cluster solutions that are diskless, but usually they have one disk," says Fay. "The drives only add about $50 or $60 to the cost, so when you take that out of the cluster is is not a very significant savings.

While diskless servers are not a big seller at this point, he sees a great deal of customer interest in 64-bit and dual-core processors.

"We are a launch partner for both Intel and AMD," says Fay, "so any new dual-core releases from either company will be reflected in our platform offerings."

A Less RISCy Approach

Susan Davis, vice president of marketing and product management for Egenera, in Marlboro, Mass., also sees growth in 64-bit and dual core. In May, the company added two new server blades to its BladeFrame system:

  • A 4-processor, eight-core blade using AMD's Opteron Model 875, with 1 MB of L2 cache per core, and 32 GB of registered ECC DDR Chipkill memory
  • A 2-processor, four-core model with Opteron Model 275s, 1 MB of L2 cache per core, and 8 GB of registered ECC DDR Chipkill memory

Both models use 1GHz HyperTransport.

However, although increasing the number of cores adds computing power, it also adds to the management load.

"Issues are now emerging around how to manage data center infrastructure at a more granular level," says Davis. "Things are only getting more complex!"

Egenera's approach to simplification is its "PAN" (Processing Area Network) architecture and management software, called PAN Manager. The software provides server virtualization, continually monitors the system's health and performance, and optimizes the system.

"Linux, virtualization, and blades have moved from early adopters to the mainstream market," says Davis. "Customers are using these platforms to simplify complex infrastructure and deliver better levels of service and agility to the business."

A key market for Egenera's blade servers has been government agencies, but the blades are also finding application in the hosting arena.

"Government IT groups are migrating from RISC to x86, but they still require a mission-critical, redundant, high availability architecture, which BladeFrame provides," she says. "We've also seen increased activity from the hosting market, which had all but vanished a few years ago."

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