RLX vs. Tatung: Sharpening the Differences Between Blade Servers Page 2

By Logan Harbaugh (Send Email)
Posted Mar 6, 2003

RLX 300ex

RLX 300ex: A mature blade server product that should serve well in a Web farm or clustering application

The RLX 300ex chassis is a 3U chassis that is both deep and heavy. Its 24 slots are accessible behind a locking swing-away front panel that holds six fans. LEDs indicate which blades are operating, and the rack and chassis ID number. On the back are dual redundant power supplies, four fan-out connectors (or two optional gigabit ports, one for the internal and one for the external network), a three-port switch for the management network, and dual RJ-12 jacks for linking multiple units on the back. Each blade can support one or two 2.5 inch drives from 20 GB to 60 GB, up to 2 GB of memory, and an 800 MHz Pentium 3 processor (the 800i blade), a 1.2 GHz Pentium 3 processor (the 1200i blade), or a 1000 MHz Transmeta processor (the 1000t blade) CPU. Each blade is also equipped with an RJ-45 jack for a dedicated serial console if desired, and three 10/100 Ethernet interfaces.

The RLX 300ex Chassis

Source: RLX

The first slot in the first chassis must contain the Control Tower blade. It runs the Control Tower 4 management application and is accessible from anywhere on the management network via a Web server. Only one Control Tower blade is required, no matter how many units are installed. The rest of the slots can be filled with up to 23 more blades. However, while the 800i and 1000t blades use a single slot, the 1200i blades each consume two slots, for a maximum of 12 in a chassis.

Given that the current typical application for a blade server is within a clustering environment or Web farm, we suspect that most users will opt for the higher density and lower cost of the 800i or 1000t blades.

Installing the chassis is simply a matter of plugging the blades in, connecting the network connections, and plugging in the unit. There is no power on/off button, so the blades start when the chassis is plugged in. Installing operating systems on the blades is simple. RLX provides installation images of Red Hat Linux 7.3, with 7.2 or 8.0 optional, or Windows 2000 Server.

The system we received had the network connect cards -- there are four high-density connectors, each of which fans out to 12 RJ-45 jacks. There are two connectors for the internal network and two for the external network. Each connector handles the odd or even slots for its network. Optional 24-port switch modules are available that aggregate the 24 blade ports into two 10/100/1000 connections that can be trunked for 2 Gbps throughput on the internal and external networks. The switch modules simplify cabling, but the high-density connectors are a less-expensive alternative if switches are already installed in the network operations center.

The management switch module on the back of the system includes a DHCP server, which means that for the initial configuration, any PC with a Web browser can be plugged into the management module and used to run access the Control Tower application through any standard Web browser.

The Control Tower software is the RLX's biggest strength. The fourth-generation management and deployment application really shows its maturity in ease of use and consolidation of all management tasks in a single, simple interface. Designating IP addresses and server names is simple, as is selecting the operating system to install. Individual blades can be accessed through either a virtual serial console or a virtual KVM interface that makes installing software very easy, even in the Windows environment where a serial terminal would be problematic. Access to each blade includes access before the blade is running an operating system, allowing BIOS-level configuration and hardware resets through the management console.

The normal installation process involves deploying an operating system image to one blade, configuring the operating system, installing applications as necessary, configuring the applications, then capturing the operating system image and deploying it to the other blades. The Control Tower application makes the entire process straightforward, from configuring the server names and IP addresses for each system to capturing and deploying modified images. Capturing a Linux image took us only a couple of minutes, and deploying it was equally quick.

Once the blades were configured, the Control Tower application also made it simple to monitor both hardware and software on all the blades.

Vendor Home Page: RLX
Product Home Page: RLX 300ex Chassis
Operating Systems Supported: Red Hat 7.2, 7.3 and 8.0, and Windows 2000 Server Price: Control Tower 4, $2,999; 300ex Chassis, $2,899; 1200i blades start at $1,529; 800i blades start at $1,249; 1000t blades start at $999; fully loaded chassis with 16 blades, $29,082

Pros: Mature and well-integrated forth-generation management and deployment software and third-generation hardware; Various blades provide flexible hardware configurations, including up to 120 GB of storage per blade and 2 GB of RAM; Easy setup and configuration; Many additional applications from RLX partners, including load balancing, clustering, VPN, and firewall applications
Cons: None to speak of

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