EXCLUSIVE: transtec Modular Server

An SMB blade server with value high on the agenda, good remote management and some unique storage possibilities.

The accuracy of the power monitoring graphs is questionable as the chassis with no modules powered up was shown by the MSC as pulling 102W whereas our inline power meter registered 225W. With one blade fired up this rose to 240W in the MSC whereas our meter showed 370W. With both blades running MSC registered 384W but our meter showed 517W.

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The storage arrangement is very flexible as you select physical drives and place them in storage pools. Within these you create virtual drives each with their own RAID array type. Only those arrays that can be supported by the number of selected drives are made available for selection and the array is assigned to virtual drives and not the storage pool. This enables a storage pool to support multiple arrays and each virtual drive can be a different RAID array as well. Your next job is to assign virtual drives to selected compute modules where they will see them as normal local storage.

Essentially, this enables an internal SAN to be created. A stand-out feature is that if a module fails you can re-assign its virtual drive to another one and boot it up with minimal disruption. The Transport option is provided for this function where you take selected drives offline and move them across. External expansion is possible as the storage controller blade has an external SAS port and adding a second storage blade creates an active/active failover scenario.

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Each blade can be controlled locally by attaching a monitor and USB input devices to them but the MSC provides KVM over IP access so you can control power to switch them on and off and remotely view and control their BIOS and OS. It's easy enough to see your storage layout as the MSC Report tab provides a smart flowchart diagram showing drive bays, installed drives, storage pools, virtual volumes and which modules they are assigned to.

Access controls for chassis management can be implemented by creating new users and deciding precisely which components they can interact with. Firmware upgrades can easily be applied to the entire chassis and all installed components. Usefully, once the process is completed it will only automatically reboot components that will not cause any downtime and leave the rest to be manually rebooted when convenient.

Stack up transtec's Modular Server against the SMB offerings from HP and IBM and it's clear there are distinct advantages. It's not as well built as HP's c3000 but it's a lot quieter than IBM's BladeCenter S, which will need the 11U high enablement kit for deployment in an office. HP's and IBM's remote management features are more comprehensive but the Modular Server's management tools are nothing to sniff at, it looks comparatively good value and its storage facilities make it very versatile.

Verdict

SMBs looking to use blade servers to consolidate IT services on a single platform have had a limited choice, with only HP and IBM on their list. transtec’s Modular Server offers a very interesting alternative as it brings the entry point down to a more affordable level and offers a superior storage proposition to the establishment.

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Chassis: 6U rack enclosure with six compute module slots Power: 2 x 1050W hot-swap supplies (max. 4) Fans: 2 x hot-swap Storage Controller Blade: 1 (max. 2) supports RAID0, 1, 1E, 10, 5, 6 Storage: 4 x 73GB Seagate Savvio 15K.1 SFF SAS hard disks in hot-swap carriers (max. 14) Switch blade: 1 x 10-port L2 Gigabit Ethernet with web management (max. 2) Management: 1 x Management blade with 10/100 Ethernet, serial port (max. 2) Compute Modules: 2 (max. 6) CPU: 2 x 1.6GHz Xeon E5310 Memory: 8GB 667MHz FB-DIMM (max. 32GB) Storage: Embedded LSI SAS1064E Network: 2 x Gigabit Ethernet (max. 4)

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