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Latest IBM BladeCenters Cool Down

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IBM released three new members of its BladeCenter family today with a focus on energy efficiency features. For the first time, IBM is also offering an optional modular 4GB USB drive that uses Flash storage as an alternative to a traditional hard disk.

Based on Intel quad-core and AMD dual-core processors, Big Blue’s latest blade systems offer greater energy efficiency.

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The new offerings include the BladeCenter HS21 ($3,067 or $3,189, based on choice of 1.60 or 1.86 GHz 50 watt Intel Xeon quad-core LV processor) and the BladeCenter LS21 and the LS41, which run on a 68 watt dual-core AMD Opteron processor.

IBM estimates the solid state Flash drive consumes about 5 percent as much energy as a spinning hard disk with mechanical parts. The Flash drive is also much faster. The average spin-up and seek time for a conventional hard disk is around 15 milliseconds, while IBM said a Flash device takes only 0.1 milliseconds.

Joe Clabby, president of Clabby Analytics, said IBM’s inclusion of Flash storage, even an option, is significant. “It means you get an immediate fast boot,” Clabby told “Over time there is a promise that this will be a real efficient way to do blade systems.”

At 4GB, the Flash drive has only a fraction of the capacity of a standard hard disk but still costs about the same.

IBM sees distinct advantages. “Mechanical drives have a much higher failure rate,” Doug Balog, vice president and business line executive for IBM BladeCenter, told

He also said the extra storage that comes with standard hard disks is mirrored by other storage in the data center and not really needed. “The Flash drive is a great device for booting to environments like Linux,” said Balog.

Low-voltage processors reduce energy use but are not at all unique to systems from IBM. Balog noted other technology component can also be designed for greater energy efficiency. He spoke by phone from a blade customer event this week where he said there are users with as few as six and as many as 6,000 blades. “About 75 percent of them see power and cooling as one of the top issues, regardless of the size of their company,” said Balog.

The new BladeCenters and System x servers IBM also just introduced include a feature called Calibrated Vectored Cooling, which manages air intake, fan placement and zone cooling technologies. The idea is to maximize the air flow inside the blade and rack server for optimal cooling efficiency. IBM also includes its PowerExecutive software designed to help customers meter, control and cap power consumption across systems.

While HP has it’s own set of power cooling technologies for the data center, Clabby said IBM’s PowerExecutive is unique. “It tells you what application workloads are doing and what to turn off,” he said. “The metering and monitoring software is very cool stuff and easy to use. I haven’t seen anyone else offer anything quite like it.”

The new members of IBM’s System x server line include the System x3550 ($2,999) and x3650 ($3,059) based on the quad-core Xeon; and the System x3655 ($2,589) based on the dual-core Opteron. Like the blade systems, the new servers use low voltage processors.

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