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Egenera upgrades blade server management software

Egenera has upgraded its blade server management software, allowing data center pros to select from a larger variety of blades for dealing with specific workloads.

Marlboro, Mass.-based blade manufacturer, Egenera Inc. upgraded its blade server management software, allowing data center managers to cherry-pick servers from a larger pool of blades, depending on what applications they want to run.

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PAN Manager 5.0, now available, allows customers to set up pools of servers across multiple processor models -- either two-socket, four-socket chips from Intel Corp. or Advanced Micro Devices Inc. The blade server management software will be included with new shipments of the company's BladeFrame systems.

"It extends the number of resources that you can manage from a single management domain," said Egenera vice president Susan Davis. "If you give customers more resources to pull from, it really simplifies the management."

The foundation of Egenera's hardware and software is using blade servers as commodities with just processors and memory. All other applications are streamed across the network to the blade when needed. In this way, IT shops can customize their blades to work for applications, rather than being cornered into having a particular server provide a particular function.

PAN Manager, short for Processor Area Network Manager, is the software that allows the blades to work in this manner.

"What it means is we've really broken that link between a particular piece of hardware and particular applications," Davis said. "This virtual server can move around, and if you need additional capacity, you can take one blade and use it."

Davis explained that previous versions of the PAN Manager could only mix and match resources from one frame, which contains 24 processing blades. With the new version, data center managers can pull from multiple frames, a concept that Egenera has dubbed BladeFarms.

Peter Kastner, vice president and research director of research firm Aberdeen Group in Boston said, "The ability for PAN Manager to harness multiple blade frames is particularly important since many of Egenera's customers have computing requirements that span multiple frames." Kastner added that Egenera's hardware and software have helped it become one of the leaders in blade server management since its inception in 2000. "Egenera has built a list of household brand companies who have put some of their most important applications on Egenera equipment," Kastner said.

Some other new features of PAN Manager include:

  • Named pools, allowing data center managers to group and identify what types of blade processors are best for each application and assigning them accordingly.
  • Support for virtual tape backup.
  • Warm pBlades, where unused blades are powered up and run in a low-power setting so they can be easily accessed if another blade fails or more are needed.
  • According to Davis, the Warm pBlades are all about reducing failover time. If a backup server is not running, it takes longer to boot when the primary hardware cuts out. But running them in "warm" mode allows them to draw some amount of power, but there's no operating system or application loaded. "The boot time is pretty much cut in half," she said.

    "As memory sizes have gotten so large on servers, the time to test memory has grown longer," Kastner said. "Therefore, having blades that have booted through the post screens makes sense. When a mission critical application fails over, minimizing the outage is often the most important criteria that it has."

    Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Mark Fontecchio, News Writer

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