The IBM zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension (zBX) is a bold new step to extend the System z Qualities of Service (QoS) into the distributed server arena (see Figure 1). Recognizing that not all workloads will run best in a homogeneous environment, the zBX introduces hybrid computing under a single platform management umbrella called the Unified Resource Manager. The zBX supports highly specific types and models of server blades optimized for specific environments. Knowing what kinds of workloads run best on the zBX will help you make platform decisions with greater confidence.
Inside the zBX
Before discussing workloads, let’s take a peek into the zBX componentry that comprises the offering. The zBX can have up to four 42u racks connected through both data and management networks. Each rack can have up to two IBM BladeCenter H chassis. The total capacity of single-wide blades in the zBX is 112. The first rack in the zBX also contains two redundant sets of data and management switches, called top-of-rack switches, which connect all BladeCenters and blades. Each rack also has redundant power distribution units and cooling fans. When you order a zBX, all this configuration and connectivity comes pre-installed, greatly simplifying your setup.
The data network connection from each of the blades to the top-of-rack switches is 10 GbE. From the top-of-rack data network switch, connections can be made to your existing network and to other z196 servers in your ensemble. The IBM BladeCenter H in the zBX also has dual 8Gbps Fibre Connection (FICON) connections to your existing Storage Area Network (SAN) infrastructure.
zBX Supported Blades
Four types of blades are currently supported in the zBX. General-purpose applications serving blades for the zBX currently include the IBM PS701 POWER7 blade running the AIX operating system. IBM recently delivered support for the IBM BladeCenter HX5 (7873) in the zBX, which is a System x blade that will run 64-bit Linux and Windows Server 2008. While both the PS701 and HX5 blades are supported in standalone BladeCenters, they’re only supported in the zBX in specific configuration subsets.
The other blades currently supported in the zBX are special-purpose optimizer appliances that include the IBM Smart Analytics Optimizer (ISAO) V1.1 and the IBM DataPower XI50z. The ISAO V1.1 blades are used to offload and accelerate specific types of complex queries from DB2 on z/OS. The XI50z blades provide the same integration capabilities as the standard XI50B, but can be placed in the zBX to provide a more tightly integrated on-ramp to System z workloads. These two optimizer blades won’t be covered in detail here since the recommended workloads are fairly well-known and narrow in scope.
PS701 POWER7 Blade
While the PS701 POWER7 blade is available in many configurations for the IBM BladeCenter H, not all these are supported in a zBX environment. The only variable for the three configurations is the amount of memory you can order for the blade. Unlike other PS701 configurations, only one Virtual I/O Server (VIOS) and only a single virtual I/O boot drive are supported. A fully loaded zBX can have 112 PS701 blades. Figure 2 shows PS701 specifications supported in the zBX.