August 23, 2005

OffMyServer running FreeBSD on new Intel Blades

Reed Media Services writes "OffMyServer, Inc., a provider of high-end networking servers,
recently sponsored development for FreeBSD to support the Intel/IBM
Blade Chassis and Blades using Intel's Nacona chipset.

Intel Nacona blade servers provide remote management, easy cabling,
reliability, redundancy, and efficiency. They can be easily
expanded; there is no minimum number of blades that must be present
in any blade chassis. In fact, combined with power, space, and
system cost, a blade system filled with SBX82 blades can be much
less expensive than 14 similarly configured 1U systems.

"Support for the blades is significant because it helps move FreeBSD
into the future of the high performance clustering and high
availability computing markets," said OffMyServer Chief Technology
Officer, Matt Olander.

"Since the OS inherits its reliability and at least some functionality
from the hardware it runs on, the blades, being performance and
distributed computing machines by design, allow FreeBSD to gain
some of these features intrinsically simply by running on the
hardware," said Devon H. O'Dell, FreeBSD Systems Programmer for
OffMyServer.

To get FreeBSD to boot on the Intel SBX82 blades, a simple patch
was made for the Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI).
Also a change was made in FreeBSD 5.4 that broke the ethernet driver
(the blades use the Broadcom gigabit ethernet chipsets) for the
blades that needed to be reverted, said O'Dell. This was fixed for
the FreeBSD 6 branch and was merged into 5-STABLE, so it will be
in the next 5.5-RELEASE.

Doug White, a member of the FreeBSD Release Engineering team, worked
with OffMyServer to integrate the support for the blades.

Intel donated a high-end blade chassis and a couple of blade servers to
the FreeBSD project via Offmyserver. It will be used for general FreeBSD
development, said Olander.

"We've setup an entire rack for the FreeBSD project with about 20
servers in it all together," he said.

"Our customers are using these machines for various things," said
O'Dell. "A very large-scale free and virtual web hosting company
with hundreds of thousands of customers uses the blades because
they provide excellent remote management capabilities, the reduced
cost of colocation, less space needed for more servers, and the
processing power and reliability of the hardware."

Other use cases include bioinformatics (using the blades as computing
powerhouses to identify and analyze viruses), medical applications,
content delivery systems, and hosting, said O'Dell. "Any application
requiring density, remote management, easy cabling, reliability,
redundancy, efficiency, or any combination of the above is a
candidate for blade servers."

About FreeBSD

FreeBSD is a complete and advanced Unix-like operating system which
can be used as a secure and high-performance workstation, network
server or firewall. FreeBSD is developed by a team of over 200
developers. Over 12,000 third-party software suites are freely
available for quick installation from the FreeBSD Packages Collection.
More information about FreeBSD is available on the web at http://www.FreeBSD.org/.

About OffMyServer, Inc.

OffMyServer, a company nestled in the infamous Golden Triangle of
Silicon Valley, provides FreeBSD-based Internet infrastructure grade
rackmount servers, security appliances, and managed FreeBSD hosting
to a global market. The OffMyServer management team consists of
former executives and employees from BSDi and iXsystems.
For information about Offmyserver's Blade products, please visit http://www.offmyserver.com/cgi-bin/store/blade/bla de.html."

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