Cluster computing for small and medium businesses

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Image of an ICC Modular Server (IMS)

We’ve updated our high-density servers webpage with a solution tailored to small and medium businesses (SMB): the ICC Modular Server (IMS). Built on similar principles to blade servers, we are selling our IMS to organizations that can benefit from an upgrade of their current (limited) server resources to an entry-level cluster solution. Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of this product to get an idea of whether it’s right for you.

The ICC Modular Server (IMS) contains compute servers, a separate storage area network (SAN), and management modules all housed and centrally controlled within one 6U enclosure. As the name implies, all components are “modular” (so, easy to expand or replace) and hot-swappable, and cabling is absolutely minimal (just like blade servers).

There are several advantages of this type of solution over, say, having multiple 1U rack servers networked together in one’s office:

  • The IMS’s modular design makes it much easier to maintain
  • The complete IMS system has about the same low noise level as a 1U server (though it house six compute nodes)
  • The drives are separate from the compute nodes, which allows all six of the compute nodes to access the up-to 18TB of storage in the SAN
  • Multiple virtual servers can easily be set up and managed with VMWare that are seamlessly scalable to up to six compute nodes
  • Redundant modules can be configured for compute node (and other systems) failover

For these reasons, we think this solution is ideal for small- to medium-size businesses looking to expand beyond their current workstation or rack server IT resources and save on maintenance and energy costs.

There are, however, several drawbacks to the IMS, and this solution may not fit every organization’s needs:

  • The IMS is not very scalable beyond the first 6U enclosure (i.e. if you network two or more IMS enclosures together, the compute nodes from one enclosure will not be able to access the SAN of the others). For more scalable cluster solutions, we recommend our high-end blade systems. For the major of small businesses, though, the IMS’s 12 processors and 18TB are more than enough computational resources for the foreseeable future.
  • The Ethernet network within the ICC Modular Server (IMS) is a 1 Gigabit; there is no 10 Gigabit Ethernet option as has become popular in the high-performance computing (HPC) community. If your applications require extreme performance, talk to us about HPC systems.

But if your organization is now running on a handful of separately-managed servers or workstations that you are thinking of upgrading, the ICC Modular Server may be a great fit for you. Click here to find out more about the IMS or talk to an ICC sales engineer.

Here are some photos. The first shows the difference between the two types of IMS enclosures available. On the left is the enclosure with 6x 3.5″ drives (maximum of 18TB of storage). The other enclosure, on the right, has 14x 2.5″ drives (maximum of 14TB of storage).

Front views of IMS enclosures with 3.5" (left) and 2.5" (right) drives

The next photo shows the back of the IMS enclosure, where the various cooling, power supply, and management modules can be seen.

Back view of IMS enclosure

Finally, below is a closer view some of some of the modules in the previous photo: the management module (left), storage management module (center), and Ethernet switch module (right).

Image of IMS management module (left), storage management module (center), and Ethernet switch module (right)

Let us know what you think of the ICC Modular Server solution in the comments! Thanks for reading.


  1. [...] Middle Modules. The good folks at ICC have developed modular servers and storage targeted at small and medium [...]

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