I finished the work on the IBM Redpaper which describes enhancements in capabilities of the IBM eX5 servers with support for the latest technologies. The draft of the paper is now published (http://www.redbooks.ibm.com/abstracts/redp5002.html), and I wanted to highlight some interesting facts covered in it.
As you probably know, the x3850 X5 is IBM flagship server, with 4 processor sockets supporting the Intel Xeon processor E7 family with up to 10 cores per processor, and up to 2 TB of RAM. The server can expand, and by attaching a second x3850 X5 and two MAX5 memory expansion units, you can have a single system image with up to 8 processors (80 cores) and 6 TB of RAM. The x3850 X5 server is the ideal choice for mission critical environments supporting high performance databases, enterprise applications, and virtualized workloads.
In keeping with their leadership position providing ongoing technology improvement and innovation, IBM continuously refreshes and enhances IBM eX5 offerings by adding support for the most up-to-date technologies. These technologies include:
Microsoft Windows Server 2012
VMware vSphere 5.1
New Enterprise and Enterprise Value solid-state drives in the IBM eXFlash unit
16 Gb Fibre Channel adapters
What are the enhancements?
Both Windows Server 2012 and vSphere 5.1 hypervisors double the amount of supported memory per physical server compared to their previous versions (Windows Server 2008 R2 and vSphere 4.1 respectively). As a result, the x3850 X5 server can potentially host twice more virtual machines, providing memory was the limiting factor.
In addition, both virtualization environments expanded the amount of memory supported by a single VM to 1 TB, which allows to effectively utilize x3850 X5 memory expansion capabilities to virtualize enterprise workloads that require large amounts of memory.
With the introduction of Enterprise Value and next generation Enterprise solid-sate drives (SSDs), the IBM eXFlash increases storage I/O capacity and performance by almost 2 times, with the choice to optimize the cost per IOPS ratio depending on the workload type. This significantly increases the capabilities of the x3850 X5 in supporting resource-demanding enterprise workloads.
The key difference between Enterprise SSDs and Enterprise Value SSDs is their endurance (or life expectancy). SSDs have a huge but finite number of program/erase (P/E) cycles, which affects how long they can perform write operations and thus their life expectancy. Enterprise SSDs have significantly better endurance but higher cost per IOPS ratio compared to Enterprise Value SSDs. SSD write endurance is typically measured by the number of program/erase cycles that the drive can incur over its lifetime, listed as total bytes written (TBW) in the device specification.
With x3850 X5 and eXFlash, Enterprise SSDs are an excellent choice for both read- and write-intensive workloads such as online transaction processing (OLTP), while Enterprise Value SDDs can be a better choice for read-intensive workloads such as online analytical processing (OLAP).
External storage I/O
With the virtualization trends in data centers, enterprise workloads demand higher I/O bandwidth to match the capabilities of x3850 X5's multi-core processors and increased amounts of memory, allowing the higher number of virtual machines (VMs) to be hosted on a single physical system. Higher I/O bandwidth, including storage I/O, can help to achieve better server utilization and higher VM per server ratio.
Data warehouses and business analytics are additional examples of the workload that requires higher storage I/O bandwidth to allow faster data processing, making strategic business decisions in a timely manner.
With support for the 16 Gb Fibre Channel adapters, x3850 X5 can help to increase the utilization and enhance I/O scaling capabilities in virtualized environments by increasing the speed of storage fabric and the number of available I/O slots. Combined with the reliable high-speed solid-state drive technology and storage tiering, 16 Gb FC fabric can help to significantly decrease storage I/O response time to match the processing power of the x3850 X5 server.
Read more in the Enhancing Capabilities of the IBM eX5 Portfolio with the Latest Technologies paper.
Ilya Krutov is an IBM Redbooks Project Leader. He writes books and papers on many areas related to IBM Flex System, IBM BladeCenter and IBM System x. Follow Ilya on Twitter at @IlyaAtRedbooks.