RLX vs. Tatung: Sharpening the Differences Between Blade Servers

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As the demand for reliable network services continues to grow, groups of small servers are proliferating, especially in the areas of clustering and Web farms. This need is driving the demand for blade servers -- essentially servers on a single card that can be crammed eight, 16, or even 24 to the chassis.

Logan Harbaugh test drives two blade server systems, the 300ex from RLX and the TUD-2016 from Tatung. The units are comparable in many ways, including price, basic architecture, and operating systems supported. The differentiating factors? The management software and ease of use.

With the capability of fitting as many as 336 servers into a single seven-foot rack, issues such as cooling, management and deployment of operating system images can become more critical than the performance of the individual blades, although dual- and four-CPU blades are becoming available.

We reviewed two systems, the RLX 300ex chassis and the Tatung TUD-2016 Blade Server System. The RLX system supports up to 24 blades (23 plus the control tower management blade) in a 3U (5.25") chassis; the Tatung server supports 16 blades in a 2U (3.5") chassis, yielding 336 servers per seven-foot rack in both cases. While the basic architecture of both systems is similar (e.g., removable blades holding the CPU, memory and hard drive), there are some basic differences.

The RLX unit provides three separate Ethernet connections for each blade via special connectors that fan out to individual Ethernet plugs, and it includes a dedicated management module. Optional switch modules are available to aggregate all 24 connections for the internal and external networks into two gigabit Ethernet connections.

The Tatung unit incorporates redundant Ethernet switching modules and management modules that aggregate all the blades into one 10/100 or Gigabit connection for each of three networks -- internal, external, and management.

Both systems offer an assortment of operating systems, Linux variants, and Windows 2000 Server. The management platforms make it simple to create an image from one blade and deploy that image to the rest of the blades in the chassis.

The systems are also comparable in overall cost -- list price for one chassis with 16 blades is $29,082 for the RLX unit, and $29,730 for the Tatung unit, assuming 800i blades are used.

The RLX blade server requires switches or hubs for internal and external networks, whereas the Tatung blade server requires an external management server running the ManageSite application and a DHCP server.

However, our experience with both servers, and all other factors being relatively equal, we feel the edge goes to the RLX system. This is largely due to its Control Tower 4 management suite, which, in its fourth generation, offers a mature, easy-to-use interface and well-done integration of all necessary functions.

This article was originally published on Mar 6, 2003
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