Penguin boosts blades

Linux hardware and clustering company Penguin Computing Inc. is releasing two new blade servers in its BladeRunner family, the 4130 and the 4140, based on 64-bit chips from Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) respectively. Penguin showed off the blades at the LinuxWorld show held earlier this month in San Francisco.

“In the data centre environment, space, power consumption and thermal considerations in relation to heat emission are becoming increasingly important,” said Bill Cook, Penguin’s senior vice-president of services and sales.

He said the new blades are best suited for use in data centre consolidation and departmental clustering. Offering 64-bit blades is part of Penguin’s ongoing strategy to provide Linux hardware “across the board,” from the midlevel to high-end computing, he said.

The BladeRunner 4130 is based on Intel’s Xeon EM64T 64-bit processor and is available now, while the BladeRunner 4140, based on AMD’s dual-core Opteron HE chip, should ship on Sept. 15, according to Matt Hammell, Penguin’s blade specialist.

Penguin debuted the first member of its BladeRunner blade line, based on an Intel 32-bit Xeon processor, in December of last year.

Hammell said all three BladeRunner blades featuring the three different chips are housed in the same chassis, a 4 (unit) high chassis that can hold a maximum of 12 dual processor blades. The BladeRunners provide customers with three times the CPU (central processor unit) density of a typical 1U server, according to Penguin, with a low power consumption of 133 watts. Each blade has between 512MB and 8GB of memory and 48 Gigabit Ethernet ports.

The blades include remote-management software featuring “lights-out” management for remote power-down and the ability to reset systems that are running in either active or standby mode, Hammell said. Penguin also offers a BladeRunner in a Cluster in a Box configuration that comes with preinstalled Scyld Beowulf Linux clustering software from Penguin’s Scyld Software subsidiary.

The starting price for three BladeRunner blades is US$8,994.

The Penguin executives commented on IBM Corp.’s July announcement that it plans to set up a vendor body,, to promote BladeCenter-based servers and blade interoperability.

“Interoperability between blades is definitely a concern,” Hammell said, pointing out that BladeRunner blades are of a smaller form factor than IBM’s offerings. “We will track consortium efforts to see what will best serve over time,” Cook said. “It’s possible to go to two standards; one would be too constricting.” Cook came to Penguin in May after a 19-year career at Sun Microsystems Inc. culminating in a three-year stint as senior vice-president of U.S. sales. “The focus and energy at Penguin is similar [to Sun in the early days],” he said.

Cook is focusing on trying to persuade more commercial large companies to sign up for Penguin’s hardware. “We’re getting customers to see us in a different light and there’s a lot of interest in our Scyld product,” he said.

Penguin’s Scyld Software subsidiary is working on enhancing the clustering software so it has more mainstream appeal, Cook added. Hammell said that Penguin is already having a lot of success selling BladeRunner to service providers using remote data centres.

Most of Penguin’s sales are in the U.S. currently with a 50/50 split between sales to commercial enterprises and sales to academia and government, according to Cook. He’s working on expanding the company’s sales force and placing more emphasis on services. Cook expects Penguin to expand operations outside of the U.S. towards the end of this year, probably to Europe first. The company should reach a decision on such an expansion over the coming 10 weeks to 12 weeks, he said.

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