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Server Snapshots: IBM JS22 Express

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted Apr 17, 2008


Drew Robb
Powerful enough for high performance computing at a price point that won't scare SMBs away, IBM's new J Series blade is poised to take the world by storm.

The IBM JS22 isn't your average blade server. For one thing, this 2-way dual-core Power6 processor model has a surprisingly high clock rate of 4 GHz. This compares very well to its predecessor, the JS21, which used the two-socket PowerPC processor. This earlier machine ran at 2.7 GHZ (single core) or 2.5 GHz (dual core).

"By introducing POWER6 into its BladeCenter lineup, IBM has given its J Series blade lineup a nice upgrade with a fast new processor," said Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata (Nashua, N.H.). "Perhaps as important as the capabilities of the processor is the fact that this is the same chip that IBM is rolling out across the rest of its System p and System i product lines." [ed note: Between this interview and presstime, IBM announced that the System p and System i brands were no more and the products formerly in those lines would be under the new Power System brand.]

In addition to its extra cores and GHz, the Power6 chip gets a further boost courtesy of its 64-bit platform as well as the 4 MB of Level 2 cache per processor core that supports it.

"The JS22 Express has two p6 processor chips each with two cores for a total of four 64-bit 4.0 GHz cores," said John Biebelhausen, worldwide offering manager for Power-based blades at IBM (Armonk, N.Y.).

While the POWER6 packs plenty of punch, it also incorporates energy-saving features. IBM's EnergyScale technology, for example, conducts power trending, power saving, maximum power capping and various types of thermal measurement. This is backed up by ActiveEnergy Manager software, which measures the energy use of the system and provides more energy-efficient operation. Further, power conservation techniques can power down a core when there is no useful work to be done.

"One area where the JS22 breaks new ground is power management," said Haff. "The software reads thermal data from the processor chip's embedded thermal sensors and measures power draws using system-level sensors. It reports this data and uses it to ensure that the system is operating within predefined safety bounds."

On the memory side, the JS22 comes with 32 GB of DDR2-based memory in four DIMM slots. IBM Chipkill technology helps avoid memory faults. The JS22 Express also boosts performance via memory running at up to 667MHz.

Target Markets

The JS22 Express clearly isn't aimed at the low end of the market. However, its starting price of less than $6,000 means it isn't out of the question for most IT environments. IBM is positioning the server as a platform for consolidation, high performance computing and commercial applications.

"The JS22 Express will bring significant rewards to clients who want a durable server solution for consolidating multiple applications and servers into a single BladeCenter," said Biebelhausen. "The flexibility to use both the leading-edge Unix and Linux — concurrently if desired — broadens the application offerings available and increases the ways clients can put this power to work."

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For $5,779, you can buy a JS22 61XA with a 73GB SAS drive, four POWER6 cores and 4MB of RAM per core, and a choice of either AIX or Linux. Other configurations have the same basic hardware as the 61XA. The 61XB is a version of the JS22 Express that functions as the base hardware for IBM i OS in a BladeCenter H chassis. To operate in this platform, it includes a SAS Adapter card and a Fibre Channel card for a total price of $6,827. The 61XC, on the other hand, is the base hardware for IBM i OS in a BladeCenter S chassis. As it needs only a SAS Adapter Card, it is priced at $6,028.

"The 61B and 61C have special requirements when used with the IBM i operating system, and pricing varies depending on which BladeCenter chassis it is being deployed in," said Biebelhausen

Power Virtualization

As would be expected, the JS22 Express server comes jam packed with virtualization bells and whistles. IBM's Advanced Power Virtualization (APV) technology, for example, has been renamed PowerVM and is now pushed beyond its traditional large enterprises realm into broader application in the small and midsize businesses space.

"APV is a combination of hardware and firmware that can split each processor core into as many as 10 micro-partitions," said Haff. "The virtualized blade is managed through the Integrated Virtualization Manager (IVM), which provides a browser-based GUI for setting up partitions and virtual I/O on a blade."

As such, the JS22 can run up to 160 virtual partitions with several different operating systems and applications at the same time on one server. When one operating system is not being used, its CPU time can be transferred to one of the others. Borrowing resources from idle partitions boosts overall performance. At the same time, the blade has the flexibility to AIX i OS and Linux concurrently.

These virtualization features are backed up closely by simultaneous multithreading (SMT). SMT makes each physical processor appear to the operating system as multiple logical CPUs. The goal is to keep execution units in a processor as busy as possible.

"IBM estimates that SMT can give a 40 percent performance gain with an integer application," said Haff. "It can also provide up to 55 percent improvement on an online transactional processing workload."

The IBM BladeCenter JS22 Express, Close Up

Name JS22 Express The IBM JS22 Express
Vendor IBM
Platform POWER
Dimensions JS22 Express blade: 9.65 in (245 mm) high x 1.14 in (29 mm) wide x 17.55 in (445 mm) deep
Processor Details Two x dual-core POWER6 processor
Hard Drives One 73 or 146 GB 2.5" SAS drive
Operating Systems AIX, Linux or IBM i OS
Configuration Options 61XA: One 73 GB SAS drive, POWER6, 4.0GHz, 4-cores, 4 MB RAM per processor core, choice of AIX or Linux ($5,779)
61XB: Same configuration as above for a BladeCenter H chassis, includes a SAS Adapter Card and a Fibre Channel card ($6,287)
61XC: Same configuration but for a BladeCenter S chassis, includes a SAS Adapter Card ($6,028)
Availability Generally available
Warranty 3 years

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