IBM Buffaloes in on Dell, EMC

Big Blue has nudged Dell and EMC in research center: Here's why UPDATED 3/26 5PM

March 26, 2004

2 Min Read
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IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) is horning in on Dell Computer Corp. (Nasdaq: DELL) and EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) at a university supercomputing center, because the medical research facilitys director found Dell’s support... well, less than super.

IBM announced today that the University at Buffalo Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics will use its servers and storage to help study human protein behavior. Dr. Jeffrey Skolnick, the center’s director, says poor support from Dell prompted him to make the move.

“I was disappointed in the lack of support Dell provided subsequent to installation,” Skolnick says. “Their responsiveness was not what it should have been. I think they lost interest in the project.” Skolnick's involved in helping design drugs to treat diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's, AIDS, and multiple sclerosis.

Skolnick has a cluster of more than 2,000 Dell servers and EMC storage systems in place today. On April 1, the center plans to bring online an additional cluster of 266 IBM blade servers and seven xSeries 345 servers, along with 5 TBytes of FastT700 storage systems.

The center uses supercomputers to interpret biological data at the molecular level -- which requires massive number crunching. The center's new supercomputer is cable of a peak performance of more than 1.32 teraflops. The clustered blade servers run Red Hat Advance Server 2.1 Linux.Before choosing the IBM gear, Skolnick says he invited several blade server vendors to send systems he could evaluate on his network. He won’t name the other contenders but called them “the standard cast of characters.”

Skolnick says he is looking forward to working with IBM as a single point of contact for his multivendor shop. In contrast, he hasn't been pleased with his current setup, in which Dell is the main source of support, despite the fact that the network contains gear from a slew of other vendors, including EMC and Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR).

“There were a lot of vendors involved,” he says. “When something went wrong, they spent a lot of time figuring out whose fault it was. I don’t care whose fault it is -- I just want it fixed so I can get on with my science. It certainly made it much more difficult to do research.”

Skolnick says his two-person IT staff has struggled at times to keep the system running. “We have two very talented IT people and they kept the cluster up and running, but it wasn’t up to the performance levels we hoped for."

Dell did not respond to requests for comment.— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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