ThinkSystem – ‘The Benchmark’ for Intel Xeon Scalable Platform

Tikiri Wanduragala

Thursday 3 August 2017

When it comes to ensuring that data centre compute power stays ahead, retrofitting the newest processors into yesterday’s server architectures is not a future-proof strategy – there’s a limit to how much performance can be wrung out of legacy kit. But with tomorrow’s escalating workloads, upgrading data centres needs assured server capability from affordable capital investment.

Lenovo has designed its ThinkSystem servers to take fullest advantage of Intel’s just-launched Xeon Scalable processor family built for the data centre. Announced on 11 July to a global audience of analysts, customers and partners, this processor line offers a single architecture covering systems from 2- to 8-socket designs, and increases core count and frequency, as well as memory and I/O performance.

At Lenovo we have used the Intel Xeon Scalable platform in a range of new server products within our ThinkSystem brand, complementing the networking and storage solutions already announced. These systems, ranging from entry 2-socket tower servers to powerful 8-socket configurations, are designed for the most demanding applications – from large-scale virtualisation farms to in-memory database systems. It was evident that Lenovo introduced the widest range of products of any of the vendors present at the Intel launch – covering all form factors; tower, blade, rack, dense and mission critical – while our competitors announced upgraded products carrying across legacy thinking.

Unsurpassed record benchmarks

Another key point to note this July was the announcement of 42 world record benchmarks on new ThinkSystem servers. That feat was made possible due to the close working collaboration between Lenovo and Intel over three years, intended to ensure we could fully exploit all the features and functions provided by the new processors.

“When you have an innovation and engineering partner like Lenovo that is looking at the system-level thinking, the holistic design, it’s really impressive,” says Lisa Spelman, Vice President and General Manager, Intel Xeon Products and Data Center Marketing. “Lenovo is preconfiguring, doing testing and validation, pulling together the right solution. It really can give end-customers a lot of confidence, and the ability to move into deployments and production more quickly.”

It is now common industry practice to design a server to excel at a specific benchmark. What differentiates ThinkSystem designs, and makes them so exceptional, is that they perform across the whole spectrum of benchmarks – from online transaction processing (OLTP) and decision support to high-speed analytics and virtualisation. In addition, ThinkSystem servers scored both in absolute performance and led the market in price/performance. When we designed ThinkSystem, the guiding principle was realistic, affordable performance – not ‘performance at any price’.

The future-ready data centre will have to accommodate existing workloads, and be able to embrace the demanding workloads expected from analytics, big data, hybrid cloud and artificial intelligence applications. Our 42 record benchmarks demonstrate conclusively that ThinkSystem provides platform excellence for building the next generation of data centre solutions.

Simplifying the data centre

Infrastructure complexity increases operating costs, reduces agility and leaves a facility less able to accommodate emerging workloads. Virtualisation and other technologies can help alleviate the dilemma, but they cannot fully eliminate the cost of managing the core hardware devices and associated software drivers. With ThinkSystem, Lenovo has addressed this by providing common hardware building blocks and drivers across its entire server portfolio, from the entry-level tower to the largest 8-socket mission-critical nodes.

With this building block approach, we have optimised the entire supply chain – from manufacture through to data centre deployment. There is a significant benefit for customers, in that there are fewer hardware parts – and associated software drivers – to manage, thus reducing the associated operational costs typically incurred when systems and drivers must be upgraded.

New era calls for new thinking

The 42 benchmark achievements alone would be compelling enough for any server line introduction, but the ThinkSystem range goes way beyond that. It is the combination of outstanding benchmarks, the benefits of common building blocks, proven reliability and end-customer satisfaction (as shown in the ITIC 2017 Global Reliability Survey) that makes ThinkSystem such an unbeatable platform for the coming generation of future-defined data centres. If you’d like to find out more firsthand, Lenovo will showcase ThinkSystem, and again demonstrate how it simplifies the move to the software-defined data centre, at VMworld events in Las Vegas and Barcelona later in 2017. Pay us a visit and discover how Lenovo’s new platform can work to your advantage.

With these and other events happening this year, I’m convinced that 2017 will be seen as a marker in the evolution of both the server and the data centre. Back in 2001, Lenovo’s System x – ThinkSystem’s predecessor – was launched to address the then-future technology of virtualisation. Now that breakthrough concept dominates the x86 market. Some 16 years later, we are bringing ThinkSystem to market to provide a platform for the next big step in the virtualisation story: the move to the fully software-defined data centre.

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