Technical Analysis of IBM's iDataPlex Server

The Register has a technical analysis of the IBM iDataPlex Server and why they think it is a remarkable system.

IBM shakes up the server game with lean, cool iDataPlex

Freaking rivals 10,000 units at a time

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By Ashlee Vance in Santa Clara More by this author

Published Wednesday 23rd April 2008 15:08 GMT


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It is with some measure of awe that we introduce you to IBM's iDataPlex server.

The system itself is quite remarkable. IBM has reworked its approach to rack servers allowing it to place twice as many systems in a single cabinet. This attack centers on delivering the most horsepower possible in a given area while also reducing power consumption. IBM hopes the iDataPlex unit will attract today's service providers buying thousands and tens of thousands of servers and also big businesses such as oil and gas firms and media companies that will also possibly pursue a grid-ish data center computing model pioneered to some degree by Google.

But the really awe inspiring bit of iDataPlex comes from the fact that IBM is willing to go after this market at all and that it did so without screwing up the hardware design. That's not at all to say that IBM lacks engineering know how. Obviously, that's not the case. Rather, it's that IBM has a tendency to try and cram higher-end technology into simple designs, eroding their initial magic.

And gets compared to containers and competitors.

If iDataPlex lives up to its billing, then IBM will certainly appear to have caught the likes of Sun, HP and Dell off guard.

To its credit, Sun pushed the container model early, and IBM admitted that customers are demanding these types of boxes. Sun also has very compact, memory-rich designs, but we've yet to see something that equates to iDataPlex. Meanwhile, Dell will sell you a bespoke motherboard with low-power chips and memory but certainly not a double-stuffed, double-rack. And, over at HP, we find the company concentrating on improving data center design through various cooling systems but not really shipping any of this new service provider-friendly gear. (As we understand it, HP has partnered with Rackable on a number of deals in the past.)

We're still not convinced about the long-term prospects of these vendors beating each other up for lower and lower margins as the data center build out continues. The prize for winning this contest seems to just be a gutted business unless you can convince these customers to shell out for software and services. Sadly for the vendors, most of the customers seem happy to do a lot of open source work on their own.

But the journey to guttation should be an interesting one, and iDataPlex has set us on our way. For that, we'll forgive IBM for the product's name