IBM adding supercomputer features to Linux server line

IBM today announced plans to port key cluster management and file system software technologies from its SP supercomputer and AIX operating systems to its Linux rack-mounted server line.

The new features will give Linux customers capabilities that were previously available only to AIX and SP supercomputer customers, said Dave Gelardi, director of Deep Computing at IBM.

Being brought over to Linux from the SP operating system are "parallel system support programs" (PSSP) cluster management software and "general parallel file system" (GPFS) software, which have been around since 1993. Both systems are already in IBM's AIX proprietary Unix operating system, but they will now receive enhancements in AIX as well.

With the new features, IBM's Linux users will gain the ability to remotely power on or off individual nodes in a cluster, Gelardi said, as well as the ability to add user IDs from a single console, all at once rather than individually.

"It's another drumbeat in our commitment to our Linux initiatives," Gelardi said, referring to IBM CEO and President Louis V. Gerstner's announcement in December that IBM will spend $1 billion this year on Linux development.

David Turek, IBM's vice president of Deep Computing, said in a statement that "by taking the true engine of this [SP] system -- the management software -- and bringing it down into rackable Unix and Linux servers, we are empowering companies to meet the enormous scalability requirements of e-business."

Code named "Blue Hammer," the Linux version of the eServers will enable clusters of up to 32 two-way IBM eServer x330 Intel-based machines. The Unix version will cluster up to 32 two- to eight-way IBM M80 or one- to six-way IBM H80 servers running the AIX operating system.

The Unix servers with the new features will be available at the end of the month, starting at $32,000 per node, including software. The Linux versions will be available in the third quarter of the year. Pricing hasn't been established yet.

Also new: The midrange M80s and H80s can now be clustered with large-scale IBM eServer p680 or S80 servers, according to the company. The M80, H80, S80 and p680 can also be directly attached to SP supercomputers.

Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst at IDC in Framingham, Mass., said today's announcement is "another proof point in IBM's commitment to Linux. They're starting to bring over their crown jewels from AIX."

For Linux customers, the new features will be a big deal, he said. "IBM did not have these capabilities in Linux before."

Jason Katz, CEO and founder of Paltalk.com, a New York-based instant messenger software company serving 30,000 users daily, said the new SP-inspired features could help lessen some of his systems management challenges. Currently, he has two IBM M80 servers, six Intel platform Linux machines and nine Microsoft Windows NT servers. Using the new IBM software, he said, he hopes to save money by managing all of his AIX and Linux machines through one console.

Pat Bowman, director of technology operations at Mediaprise Inc., a hosted solutions provider in Austin, Texas, said he hopes to increase transaction speed for customers using the new software, which he will consider installing on his two M80 servers.

"With this clustering technology, we think we can resolve any kinds of throughput [problems] faster," Bowman said.

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Copyright © 2001 IDG Communications, Inc.

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