IBM PureSystems: It’s all about the network - Part I
Every few years, IBM announces some major innovation in the way computers are designed, used or deployed. You might remember the transition from CMOS to BiCMOS mainframes, copper-doped ASICs, or open source Linux for the enterprise. Each of these represented a major shift in the way we think about and use computational power to accomplish a huge variety of tasks. Recently, IBM announced its latest innovation, the PureSystems platform of integrated servers, storage and networking.
By now, you’ve probably seen at least some information about how PureSystems accelerates cloud deployments, simplifies the data center, and consolidates computing resources. But, I’m a networking guy, so my view of the world is a bit different. Much like the famous view of the world as seen from New York City , when I look at PureSystems, I see a lot of advanced servers, storage, and software hanging off the true technological marvel – the integrated data center network.
At the risk of appearing a bit single-minded, I’d like to talk about one of the unsung heroes of the PureSystems revolution, namely the networking technology that ties PureSystems together. And then I’d like to point out that not only is the network a key part of PureSystems, it’s got the potential to drive the next series of big innovations on this platform, and maybe even across the computing industry.
Let’s start with a quick review of the PureSystems network.
First, it’s designed for flexibility; you can choose a combination of networking protocols, including Fibre Channel (up to 16 Gbit/second), Ethernet (10 to 40 Gbit/second), or InfiniBand (QDR and FDR data rates). You can plug up to four switches into a PureSystems chassis, and link multiple chassis together using the 10, 40 or 10/40GbE IBM System Networking RackSwitch top of rack (TOR) switches. This lets you scale PureSystems from a single chassis, up through multi-rack systems (where a rack can hold up to 4 chassis).
PureSystems also supports a virtual Ethernet switch running in the hypervisor, the IBM Distributed Switch 5000v. IBM’s virtual switches, blade switches, and TORs all support industry standards including switch-resident IBM VMready with IEEE 802.1Qbg to enable VM migration (either between VMs on the same physical server, or across multiple physical servers).
And, this platform makes really good use of server virtualization; each chassis can hold up to 14 half-wide blade servers or 7 full-wide blade servers, running your choice of workloads on Linux, Windows, or AIX. Yes, I said AIX…you can plug either IBM Power microprocessor blades or Intel x86 blades into a PureSystems chassis. With around 160 servers in a 4 rack system, even a moderately virtualized system can fit over 1,600 VMs quite comfortably. That’s a tremendous amount of compute power in a relatively small package, and it comes pre-integrated with a single system manager that lets you manage all the physical and virtual resources in the system (without any third party tools).
Now that we know a bit about the networking technology inside PureSystems, why should we get excited about it ? Tune in to Part II of my blog to find out! Meanwhile, let me know what you think about the importance of networking for integrated systems by commenting on my blog, or through my Twitter feed.