[THIN] Re: OT: Blade Servers

  • From: Michael Pardee <pardeemp.list@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <thin@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 21 Sep 2006 23:20:46 -0400

I guess this is a little like cars, where I had a horrible experience with
Chevy and will probably never own one again, but I have friends that swear
by them.  I¹m sure every vendor has their own issues.

We started deploying the IBM blades 12/2004 and we have never looked back.
For us they have performed very well and we now have over 400 of them in 2
data centers.  Joe has some valid points with the power domain issue, which
they finally listened and addressed with the H series chassis.  We¹ve had a
couple drives fail, but not enough to get too concerned about.  Early on we
had an issue with imaging and it ended up being the management module.  We
had a couple of them for redundancy and had to pull one for imaging to work.
That has since been resolved with an update to the firmware.

Overall we've very happy with them, and although I haven't experienced all
of Joe's issues, we have seen a few of the ones he is referring to.

> From: Joe Shonk <joe.shonk@xxxxxxxxx>
> Reply-To: <thin@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> Date: Thu, 21 Sep 2006 10:27:04 -0700
> To: <thin@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> Subject: [THIN] Re: OT: Blade Servers
> Sorry, I suppose you're right that I'm bashing IBM too much...  They are not
> all that bad.  As far as the people go, they are great. ;o)
> To me, the HS20 was just a poorly designed, poorly implemented product.
> Funny, since IBM doesn't have that type of reputation.  From what I was
> told, the boot of SAN thing was the direction IBM ended up recommending
> because of the high disk failure rates as there were some cooling issues
> with the HDs.
> Problems with the HS20:
> Power draw exceeds 2000W per domain, thus the domain cannot be
> redundant (IBM engineers blame this on Intel to providing the correct
> wattage of their EM64T processors, but still the product went out and the
> problem wasn't corrected)
> I've already mentioned the performance of the LSI 1030 controller.
> USB 1.x instead of USB 2.0?
> Passive backplane feeds the switch a signal even if it's disabled on
> the blade side (causes issues with GEC and port aggregation, we physically
> have to disable the port on the switch to reimage a server)
> The embedded Cisco switches couldn't be configured to allow
> redundancy in the chassis.  They basically acted like two independent
> switches.
> Excessive chassis vibration (now fixed)
> The original version of the 8843 blades can't go in slots 9 or
> higher on the replacement chassis.
> High incidents of disk failures
> High incidents of memory failures (this issue is new)
> System would allocate 25% of the memory for itself so you're left
> with 3.1 gigs out 4 gigs installed. (Yes there is a fix for this too)
> If too many servers (same power domain) are restarted at the same
> time in the same then several will shutdown and cannot be powered on until
> they are physically pulled from the chassis and reseated.
> Just got dine upgrading the firmware and drivers on one chassis (4
> more to go).  This was not fun.  Dell and HP both have nice tools.   I tried
> using the UpdateXpress CD 3, but the latest version 4.04 is out of date.
> Web Management of the blades could be a lot better.  Only one admin
> at a time?
> Given that, I do have high hopes for the HS21.  I haven't seen one yet, but
> will shortly.
> Funny you mention the short coming of blade in general.  Infiniband has been
> around for a long time.  It solve most of the problems (bandwidth and
> otherwise) you've mentioned, it's cheap but it's the most widely
> unknown/under-utilized technology out there.  It (and it's cousins) seem to
> only find a place with grid computing.
> Joe
> -----Original Message-----
> From: thin-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:thin-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf
> Of Jeremy Saunders
> Sent: Thursday, September 21, 2006 5:41 AM
> To: thin@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
> Subject: [THIN] Re: OT: Blade Servers
> Yeh...you had to go there....didn't you Joe :) I assume you are talking
> about the lack of write back cache from the LSI 1030 controller. This can
> be an issue for some environments. However the new HS21's have write back
> cache. My understanding from asking lots of questions internally, is that
> the orginal design of the HS20's was more focused around booting from SAN.
> I've used plenty of HS20's as Citrix servers, and have personally found
> that the lack of write back cache has not caused performance issues.
> I know you and your customer had a bad IBM experience from some disgraceful
> customer service in the past, but we are not all bad. Out of 320,000
> employee's, you found the one or two bad apples that did not step up and
> help you. I am very sorry about what happened. But you need to get over it
> and move on and stop bagging IBM on this forum with every opportunity you
> get.
> Anyway...
> In the real world, there is no single server that has every feature you
> could ask for without any quirks. You will always find some issue somewhere
> along the lines that may relate to a sepcific application server, or a
> limitation introduced within your own environment. At the end of the day
> they will all do the same thing, and everyone has their own opinions and
> experiences. So I think rather than try and play the 3 vendors against each
> other, it's more constructive to understand why you want to go down the
> blade path and not stick to traditional servers, especially when Evan was
> talking about using some of them as ESX hosts. Even though we've had this
> conversation a few times on this forum, I'm not convinced that blades
> suites all environments.
> Once you go down the blade path you lock yourself in. In other words, you
> need to fill the blade centre with blades in order to achieve your ROI. I
> guess many of you in the larger countries and environments don't have this
> problem (just like Rusty ordering 30 at a time), but I see this as being an
> issue in Australia, where the environments are not always as big. And then
> there are the limitations of blades, especially when adding NIC's, HBA's,
> etc.
> Blades are great for Citrix servers, Web servers, Domain Controllers, etc,
> but  once you start using them for ESX hosts, you start hitting
> limitations.
> You can't divy up the NICs. Sure in ESX version 3 the Service Console can
> now share a NIC (and there was an unsupported hack for 2.5x), and you can
> also trunk (VLAN) them, but there is still the issue of available bandwidth
> to the blade. So when using blades as ESX hosts, your bottleneck will
> almost always be the NIC's. And then of course if your servers are old and
> don't have a PCI Express bus, the NIC's will share a PCI-X bus, and compete
> against each other for bandwidth.
> With a standard rack mount server, you can add NIC's, HBA's, etc.
> So the answer would be to use the bigger (double size) blades, which take
> up two slots. Well these are expensive, so what's the point of filling your
> blade centre up with these, as you will blow out your ROI.
> Some time ago I advised a couple of customers to go down the blade centre
> path because it seemed like the right way to go. Sure they filled it, and
> have achieved ROI, but now that we are introducing ESX into their
> environment, and after doing the sums, we are hitting some
> Archtectural/Design limitations when considering using some of the bades as
> ESX hosts. And now I'm annoyed with myself that I didn't understand how
> these limitations would effect their environment once we start looking into
> using ESX for DR and Business Continuity.
> Don't get me wrong, I love working with blades, and this issue will not
> concern everybody, but you need to make sure they will provide you with
> what you need.
> If you are puchasing Dell, then get the Dell Server SE in for a whiteboard
> session, and likewise for HP and IBM.
> Sorry for getting carried away and going off topic a bit, but I often don't
> think people look at the bigger picture when purchasing blade hardware.
> Cheers.
>  Kind regards,   
>  Jeremy Saunders 
>  Senior Technical Specialist
>  Infrastructure Technology Services
>  (ITS) & Cerulean
>  Global Technology Services (GTS)
>  IBM Australia   
>  Level 2, 1060 Hay Street
>  West Perth  WA  6005
>  Visit us at     
>  http://www.ibm.com/services/au/its
>  P:  +61 8 9261 8412                F:  +61 8 9261 8486
>  M:  TBA                            E-mail:
>                                     jeremy.saunders@xxxxxxxxxxx
>              "Joe Shonk"
>              <joe.shonk@gmail.
>              com>                                                       To
>              Sent by:                  thin@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
>              thin-bounce@freel                                          cc
>              ists.org
>                                                                    Subject
>                                        [THIN] Re: OT: Blade Servers
>              21/09/2006 08:23
>              AM  
>              Please respond to
>              thin@xxxxxxxxxxxx
>                      g
> Actually,  all three vendors have tight integration with Altiris (for HP
> it's call RDP, but it's just Altiris with the HP logo).   I'm not quite
> sure why you think IBM is better than Dell?  The Dell at least come with a
> real RAID controller... HP's SAS controller is crap and IBM, well let's
> just say the HS20s (8843) was nothing short of a cluster ......  On the
> bright side, HP blades do support Opterons processor unlike Dell...  If
> your planning to running anything like VMware ESX on blades, the Opterons
> are the way to go.
> Joe
> On 9/20/06, Rusty Yates <rusty27@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
>   We are using Dell OpenManager right now and the on board management for
>   the blade chassis (which is ok) nothing like IBM.  But when we were
>   looking at IBM, HP and Dell we knew IBM and HP were better but for what
>   we needed Dell was better and we got more servers for the money.  This
>   year we are looking at Altiris which has a piece that is designed just
>   for Dell.  Looks sweet and pricing isn't that bad.
>   On 9/19/06, Evan Mann < emann@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
>    Are you using OpenManage or 3rd party for management? I've never been
>    impressed with OpenManage for non-Blade servers, but I'd imagine the
>    Blade variant is much different.
>    From: thin-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:thin-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On
>    Behalf Of Rusty Yates
>    Sent: Tuesday, September 19, 2006 12:56 PM
>    To: thin@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
>    Subject: [THIN] Re: OT: Blade Servers
>    In our environment we are running the Dell 1855 Blades and haven't run
>    into any problems.  Next year we will buy the 1955 models.
>    On 9/19/06, Evan Mann <emann@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
>      It looks like I'm going to be moving into the land of Blade servers.
>      We're a Dell shop, so Dell 1955's are what is being looked at right
>      now. I want to put together a host list of key items to make sure
>      these things have/support.  Memory backed RAID cache and power issues
>      are the only thing I have on the list now, since that was the main
>      issues I've seen come across the list.  Obviously, management of the
>      blade chassis is important.
>      If it's useful, here is what we are planning to do with the Blades:
>      There is no intention of moving our Citrix farm to blades, but we are
>      deploying a new business level app using VMWare ESX3.  This new app
>      will utilize web servers and SQL servers.  The web farms will be in
>      ESX and will utilize an application load balancer, the SQL servers
>      (starting with 1) will likely not be in ESX, but that is undecided.
>      We will have a fiber connected SAN as well, but the plan isn't to boot
>      off the SAN (right now at least).  It is unknown if we will connect
>      the entire blade chassis to the SAN, or servers individually. It
>      depends on the cost of the fiber switches.
>      We are doing a lot of server consolidation as well to 2 existing 2850
>      (dual 3.4ghz Xeon's) running ESX3.  As we need more capacity, we will
>      use additional Blades for ESX 3 and consolidation.
>      The 10 blade chassis specs out to about 6k.  Each 3ghz Dual Core
>      (woodcrest) blade with 16 gigs of RAM, 2x75gig SAS drives and dual
>      Broadcom TOE GigE/dual QLogic Fiber HBA's will run us about $6600
>      (including warranty/support)
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