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NETWORK WORLD NEWSLETTER: AUDREY RASMUSSEN ON NETWORK/SYSTEMS
MANAGEMENT
12/15/04
Today's focus: RLX management software focuses on blades

By Audrey Rasmussen

Based on its experience in the blade server market, RLX
Technologies has developed integrated management tools to help
users easily manage its servers. In fact, ControlTower 6G, the
sixth generation of RLX's modular management suite, can manage
heterogeneous blade servers and rack-dense systems.

The high density of blade servers allows a lot of compute power
to be housed in a small space, which is one of the reasons for
their attraction. Another key feature is the ability to replace
a blade when there is a failure.

Blade servers also typically include other integrated functions.
RLX blade servers include Fibre Channel connectivity to connect
to storage devices. One of RLX's customers buys its blade
servers without on-board disk; it found that removing the disks
increases the mean time between failures because there are fewer
moving parts on the server. Instead, the customer boots the
blade servers directly from the storage-area network.

RLX blade servers also include network connectivity, and a
separate network interface card is dedicated to out-of-band
management. The out-of-band management allows administrators to
connect to and manage the server, even when the operating system
is not operable.

The integration of functions in the blade server is a unique
characteristic of this server form factor. But this integration
of network, server and storage connectivity in one chassis makes
it necessary to have management capabilities tailored to the
integrated capabilities of the blade server. RLX has some
experience at managing these environments, having been in the
blade server market since 2001, well ahead of some of the big
names in servers.

RLX customers report positively about ControlTower's ability to
manage servers remotely. It has a single, Web-based management
console, and it can provision and de-provision servers, with the
ability to do bare-metal installs.

An interesting use of hardware/software integration is a power
management feature that can monitor the activity on the servers.
If activity on the servers is light, the workload can be
concentrated on fewer servers, resulting in increased server
utilization. The servers that are not needed at that point can
be temporarily powered down to reduce the power usage and
unnecessary heat generation. Then if the workload increases and
requires added server resources, additional servers can be
powered up and then provisioned to help handle the increased
loads.

ControlTower is simple to use and provides good functionality,
according to RLX customers. For quick deployment, ControlTower
6G is pre-installed on a 1U appliance. It uses policy-based
management, where server management policies can be defined
using a wizard and then applied to either notify administrators
or automate repetitive tasks. In addition, it has capabilities
to do task automation. It offers the following management
modules: Task Manager, Provisioning Manager, Workload Inspector,
Automated Sparing Manager, Storage Connection Manager,
Automation Policy Manager, and HPC Cluster Manager.

RLX's tight coupling of hardware design and management software
makes for interesting capabilities that are not seen with other
server-level management tools. RLX customers report lower total
cost of ownership of RLX servers due to ControlTower's
management functionality and ease of use. In this case,
management does make a difference.

RELATED EDITORIAL LINKS

RLX updates management software
IDG News Service, 06/14/04
http://www.nwfusion.com/news/2004/0614rlxupdat.html

Copyright Network World, Inc., 2004

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Copyright 2008 Art Beckman. All rights reserved.

Last Modified: March 9, 2008