Not a blade or a rack, but all-in-one Swiss knife: The new IBM Compute Node

With the IBM Flex System x240 Compute Node, customers have many possibilities in their environment; they can chose from flexible CPU and memory options, storage, versatile I/O configurations and optional ServeRAID just to name a few.  Compute Nodes come in two flavors, x86 or power.

I focus in more detail on compute nodes based on the Intel Xeon Processor E5-2600 family (formerly codenamed “Sandy Bridge-EP” or Romley EP), named The IBM Flex System x240 Compute Node.

The x240 Compute Node supports two of Intel’s latest Xeon E5-2600 series multi-core processors, 24 DIMM modules, two hot-swap drives, two PCI Express 3.0 I/O adapters; and it has an option for two internal USB connectors.

This figure shows the front of the server:

As you can see, it has two hot-swap disk bays, one external USB port, keyboard/mouse/video dongle connector, power button, and information LEDs.

The next figure is a view inside the server. Two hot-swap HDDs are placed at the front center; both processors are placed behind the hot-swap HDDs.

As I examined this compute node, its flexibility in terms of memory, I/O, disk, and networking amazed me; it can be adapted to all customer needs—it reminds me of a Swiss knife, with multiple uses.

In summary, the basic features of this server are as follows:

–          Processor: Two Intel E5 2600 processors, with 60W, 70W, 80W, 95W, 115W, 130W, 135W options. The E5-2600 series Xeon processor features the new “Sandy Bridge” microarchitecture and is based on the existing 32nm process technology. The E5-2600 series processor can feature up to eight processing cores and up to 20 MB of shared L3 cache.

–          Memory: 24 x LP DIMMs (maximum: 768 GB with 32GB LRDIMMs); Memory mirroring, memory sparing  and IBM Chipkill are supported. Maximum memory speed is 1600 MHz. The E5-2600 series processor has four memory channels and each memory channel can have up to three DIMMs.

–          I/O: Two I/O mezzazine cards

–          HDD: Two hot-swap hard disk drives (SAS, NL SAS or SSD options). 8xSSD drive option (in future)

–          USB: Two USB ports: standard USB Flash Key (internal) and 1x Front Access USB Key

The two I/O mezzazine card slots and cards are identical, thus there is only one form factor of the I/O cards. I/O mezzazine cards can be 2- or 4-port 10Gb Ethernet, or Fibre Channel ports. These are I/O options are available now; with additional options expected later.

The list of I/O mezzazine cards that will be available now are listed below:


–          IBM Flex System CN4054 10Gb Virtual Fabric Adapter

–          IBM Flex System CN4054 10Gb Virtual Fabric Adapter Upgrade

–          IBM Flex System EN2024 4-port 1Gb Ethernet Adapter

Fibre Channel

–          IBM Flex System FC3172 2-port 8Gb FC Adapter

–          IBM Flex System FC3052 2-port 8Gb FC Adapter

–          IBM Flex System F5022 2-port 16Gb FC Adapter


–          IBM Flex System IB6132 2-port FDR Infiniband Adapter

–          IBM Flex System  EN4132 2-port Ethernet Adapter

Ethernet ports have the virtual fabric feature, thus each of these ports can be virtualized and divided into four virtual ports. Bandwidth of each of these virtual ports can be adjusted according to customer needs. If both mezzazine cards are chosen as 4-port 10GbE – totalling of 8 x 10GbE physical ports, 32 virtual Ethernet ports can be created.

A unique port in the server is a feature that cannot be realized by first looking at the system board. It is the sidecar connector, at the lower right side. The next figure shows a layout of the system board of this server.

Supporting processors in the range of 60W-135W, memory capability to 768 GB, I/O options with 32 virtual Ethernet ports, up to eight SSD drives, options of SAS, NL SAS, and SSD disks, provides customers unique capabilities no other competitor in the market can match. It is really like a genuine Swiss knife.


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Sinan Ulubil

About Sinan Ulubil

Sinan Ulubil is a Systems Architect with IBM in Turkey. Prior to his current assignment, Sinan was a Senior Client Technical Specialist also with IBM in Turkey. During his 14 years in the IT industry, Sinan has held several positions, including in product management, presales engineering, solution design, and system administration. Sinan holds a Bachelors and a Masters degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering and a Masters of Business Administration. You can reach Sinan at and follow him on Twitter @sinanulubil.