What is IBM Flex System?

IBM Flex System is IBM’s first generation solution that integrates IBM System x (x86-based), IBM Power System (POWER 7 based), Enterprise Storage, networking, and management appliance in one single chassis. It brings a new era to our capability of meeting clients’ increasing demand of computing capacity, integration, optimization, security, cost-efficiency, and flexibility. 

IBM Flex System is in a position to support technology advancement in the next several years because the availability of future system upgrades (with new designed compute nodes for future processors, memory, I/O, storage, and more) has been one of our top goals. It supports up to four 40-GBps Ethernet ports, which largely improves the Ethernet bandwidth to support higher speed devices in the future. Compared to blades, the IBM Flex System compute nodes are higher and narrower, allowing users to configure their systems with low-profile memories (blades support only very-low-profile memories because of a dimension limitation) to gain more reliability and flexibility for configuration. In addition, this new design results in more efficient air flow for cooling.

IBM Flex System has gone further than previous solutions, IBM BladeCenter-S and iDataPlex, to offer flexibility for users to customize their own chassis in accordance with their own demands of computing capacity, network bandwidth, storage size, and so on. BladeCenter-S offers small-size enterprise solution to integrate both storage (up to twelve 3.5 SAS/SATA drives) and computing nodes (six blades) in one system; however, the number of drives and blades is not adaptive to business change because of the limitation as a result of fixed Disk Storage Module (DSM) design. iDataPlex offers a 2U chassis where the customer can install two compute nodes or one compute node with one 1U disk bracket for storage; it also offers a 3U chassis where the customer can choose to install three compute nodes, one compute node with a 2U storage box, or two compute nodes with one 1U disk bracket for storage. IBM Flex System absolutely a game-changer, maximizing the flexibility of chassis customization for changing IT demand. It has various full-wide or half-wide compute nodes (x86 architecture or POWER), storage systems, and network switches, all designed as the IBM Flex System standard so that the customer can construct a completely customized chassis.

Another advantage that I have to mention is IBM Flex System’s revolutionary management appliance, which unites the management of compute nodes, network, and storage altogether. The management appliance is designed to manage multiple chassis in a single console. Compared to our previous solutions and those of our competitors—which require IT administrators to master several tools to manage network, storage, and virtualization—IBM Flex System management appliance’s simplicity and integration enables our customers to reduce costs for IT administration.

Because the IT budgets are not growing, today customers are increasingly concerned about how much they need to pay for power bills. IBM Flex System is among the top choices for its high-power efficiency. IBM Flex System integrates the most efficient 80 PLUS Platinum power supply, and efficiently balances the power across three phases. Compared to BladeCenter chassis, the IBM Flex System chassis has 25 percent more maximum airflow, and 25 percent less minimum airflow. This improvement allows IBM Flex System to save more power during light-load time and also provides enough power supply for heavy-load time, or to support future devices. Low-power-loss midplane and power connectors reduce the power consumption on the midplane and connectors. Unlike the two-blower design of a BladeCenter, IBM Flex System has six individual fans. With this design, the customer can match the number of fans to the workload and number of computing nodes. It is economic, compared to a BladeCenter, especially when the chassis is not fully configured. Extensive power monitoring capabilities enable enhanced chassis power management and power capping.

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Rush Lu

About Rush Lu

Rush Lu is currently the Technical Leader of IBM Asia Pacific System x and BladeCenter Level 2 (Postsales) support team located in Shenzhen, China. He holds a Bachelor Degree in Electrical Engineering and Automation, and had several years experience in robot design and embeded systems. He has worked for IBM for four years (one year in the US and three years in China) and has always been passionate about learning new technologies. Rush's primary support scope is high performance and high volume products; his secondary role is to support BladeCenter issues. He has been a key technical resource for resolving RCCB (one of IBM's VIP customer in China) Power blade issues. You can reach Rush at: rushlu@cn.ibm.com
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