IBM Advances ‘Blue Cloud’ with iDataPlex Server

By Nicole Hemsoth

April 28, 2008

IBM introduced an entirely new category of server uniquely designed to address the technology needs of companies that use Web 2.0-style computing to operate massive datacenters with tens of thousands of servers.

Companies that operate massive scale-out datacenters spend 10 to 30 times more on energy costs per square foot than a typical office building. The energy powers both hundreds of thousands of servers and the air conditioning needed to cool them. The exponential growth of such datacenters will continue as streaming video, online gaming and social networks spike Internet traffic, requiring companies to build ever vaster pools of computers that devour energy resources to operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The IBM “iDataPlex” system leverages IBM’s blade server heritage to build a completely new design that:

  • More than doubles the number of systems that can run in a single IBM rack.
  • Uses 40 percent less power while increasing the amount of computing that can be done 5x.
  • Can be outfitted with a liquid cooled wall on the back of the system that enables it to run at “room temperature” — no air conditioning required.
  • Uses all industry standard components as well as open source software such as Linux to help lower costs.

IBM iDataPlex is a new rack system featuring design innovations in cooling and efficiency that can help replace the inefficient “white-box” servers commonly used by Internet companies. As consumers demand richer content and more immediate access to Web-based applications, iDataPlex can allow online gaming, social network, Search and Internet companies to scale rapidly to meet this need. The system will further IBM’s ability to meet the requirements of what WinterGreen Research calls a $10 billion market.

“Enterprise Web 2.0 and the emerging cloud computing sectors are among the top high-growth investment areas for Hummer Winblad,” said Ann Winblad, co-founder and a managing director of Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, an investor in enterprise Web 2.0 and cloud computing startups like Widgetbox, Sliderocket, Wavemaker, Elastra and Move Networks. “iDataPlex will help to fuel this growth by erasing some of the inhibitors holding Web 2.0 back — namely the amount of space and energy required to serve content to more and more end users.”

Commercializing Web 2.0-Style Computing

Taking a page from the Internet’s model, iDataPlex is built for stateless computing that effectively turns many separate computers into a pool of shared resources or “cloud.”

“With iDataPlex, IBM is making Web 2.0-style computing more efficient and commercializing it for Internet companies and other high-performance segments like financial services and research,” said Bill Zeitler, senior vice president of IBM Systems and Technology Group. “iDataPlex can provide a foundation that companies can build on to provide improved services to Web users around the world.”

iDataplex will be an important element in helping clients develop a new enterprise datacenter, which offers dramatic improvements in IT efficiency and provides for rapid deployment of new IT services to support future business growth. IBM is helping clients move to new enterprise datacenters by focusing on best practices around virtualization, green IT, service management and cloud computing.

New Delivery Model — Made to Order

Each iDataPlex system can be made to order and arrive to the client integrated and ready to run from the factory. This unique delivery model also helps to keep the cost of iDataPlex well below that of a comparable number of “white box” systems.

IBM will deliver the iDataPlex system to clients globally. Among early clients who have adopted or are actively considering iDataPlex are Web 2.0 companies and other organizations from China, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, including:

  • Yahoo Inc., the leading global Internet brand and one of the most trafficked Internet destinations worldwide. “Yahoo! relies on ingenuity and technology to reduce our dependence upon energy. Many of our datacenters utilize ‘green energy’ such as passive cooling to reduce our impact,” said Laurie Mann, senior vice president of engineering and operations at Yahoo. “We continue to look for ways to maximize our resources. Yahoo! appreciates the direction IBM is moving in with iDataPlex and its commitment to drive greater power efficiency and density in the datacenter.”
  • Texas Tech University, a major research university, law school and graduate school with 28,200 students. “The Internet-style computing model iDataPlex is based on is just as attractive to the Texas Tech University High Performance Computing Center because, like Web 2.0 companies, we need to scale rapidly to support an ever increasing demand for high performance computing,” said Sam Segran, CIO of Texas Tech University. “With iDataPlex, Texas Tech will be able to operate more efficiently while meeting the needs of our researchers.”

iDataPlex in the Cloud

As part of IBM’s “Blue Cloud” initiative, iDataPlex helps companies respond quickly to changes in workload demand, thus using energy more efficiently and improving the use of resources like power.

iDataPlex provides an ideal foundation for both enterprise cloud computing initiatives and clouds designed to host Web 2.0 applications.

Start-ups such as virtual-worlds company Forterra Systems are accessing an iDataPlex system in the IBM High Performance On Demand Solutions (HiPODS) lab in San Jose, Calif., to test their applications in an IBM Cloud Center running on iDataPlex.

“Like many start-ups, technology really is our core business in that Forterra’s applications and business model rely on our technology infrastructure for success,” said Dave Rolston, CEO of Forterra Systems. “iDataPlex provides the flexibility we’re looking for to run our OLIVE — or On-Line Interactive Virtual Environment — platform together with breakthrough power and cooling efficiencies that we can pass on to our customers in the form of higher returns and faster payback.”

IBM also plans to use iDataplex in its IBM Cloud Computing Centers in other locations such as the IBM Cloud Computing Center at Dublin and at the IBM Almaden Research Center.

iDataPlex is the latest element in IBM’s portfolio of offerings for the Web 2.0 datacenter market, including:

  • Blue Cloud, an IBM initiative for cloud research and collaboration, pilots  and solutions development with commercial and government clients as well as universities and high-performance computing institutions.
  • XIV storage technology, acquired by IBM to address emerging storage opportunities like archiving digital media. The XIV NEXTRA architecture is ideally suited to work with iDataPlex because it allows rapid growth environments to more easily manage assets while being energy efficient.
  • IBM Global Financing, the lending and leasing business segment of IBM, will provide a holistic solution to help Web 2.0 companies access the new iDataPlex servers. IBM Global Financing will manage the removal and safe disposal of customers’ existing equipment and provide attractive and competitive lease rates for the new equipment.
  • IBM services for datacenter design. IBM uses thermal imaging and analysis to pre-test different datacenter designs. For example, IBM used thermal analysis to test and create five different “green” configurations that deliver optimal efficiency to clients deploying iDataPlex in the datacenter.

Technology Partner Ecosystem

Similar to its strategy to foster an ecosystem of third party technologies that work with IBM BladeCenter, IBM will team with vendors including Avocent, Blade Network Technology, Devon IT, Force 10 Networks, Intel, QLogic and SMC Networks to drive a product ecosystem around iDataPlex. Blade Network Technologies, for example, built its new RackSwitch G8000 Ethernet switch — optimized for cost and efficient cooling — specifically for iDataPlex.

“Web 2.0 companies will drive computing demand to a whole new level as we move from the Web as we knew it to the Web of the future. That’s why Intel has been excited to be a part of the iDataPlex project from the beginning,” said Jason Waxman, general manager of high-density computing at Intel. “Collaborating with Intel, IBM took a different approach to design iDataPlex from the ground up to meet the needs of this unique market. iDataPlex is a tremendous step forward in delivering efficient, dense technology to Web 2.0 companies.”

In addition, the Linux operating system from IBM distribution partners Novell and Red Hat will be supported on iDataPlex as will the open source, scale-out cluster management solution xCat. iDataPlex is the latest IBM offering that embraces Linux, which is the preferred operating system for many Web 2.0 environments, as well as companies embracing Linux for business-critical workloads. It also addresses customers concerns about energy consumption, which is a goal of IBM’s “Big Green Linux” initiative.

iDataPlex is a natural complement to IBM’s software initiatives in social networking, unified messaging and information integration, allowing Web 2.0 companies to offer open, secure and standards-based solutions to their customers. IBM is also applying the latest Web 2.0 technologies internally to improve its own enterprise productivity, collaboration and innovation, and to drive measurable business results globally.

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