IBM scales up Xeon server

IBM this month is expected to begin shipping a Xeon-based server that can scale up to 32 processors for running high-end databases and enterprise applications or to serve as a platform for server consolidation.

The eServer x460 is built using IBM’s X3 Architecture, the so-called Hurricane chipset that is the result of a three-year, US$100 million development effort to bring mainframe-type reliability and virtualization capabilities to standards-based Xeon systems.

The x460 follows the introduction earlier this year of the four-processor eServer x366, IBM’s first system based on the X3 architecture. Like the x366, the x460 is a 3U four-socket system, but the latter is designed to be more scalable and reliable to support heavier-duty workloads than the x366, IBM executives say.

The x460, which starts at around US$18,000 for a two-processor configuration, is priced similarly to its previous generation, the eServer x445, but provides up to a 60% performance improvement in an eight-way configuration, says Jay Bretzmann, director of IBM’s eServer xSeries high-performance product division.

The x445 includes eight processors in a 4U chassis. The x460 offers four sockets in a 3U chassis to accommodate the higher heat output of the latest 32-/64-bit Xeon chips. In addition, the design will enable users to upgrade to dual-core chips more easily, he says.

St. Paul Travelers Insurance runs VMware virtual machines on a handful of x445s but held off on buying more of those systems when it heard about the x460.

“We’re looking at consolidating some of our SQL environments and we were a bit concerned about whether we could do that confidently on the 445 architecture,” says Matthew Barlow, infrastructure development manager at the London firm. “Looking at [the x460,] we can certainly [consolidate on it]”.

Barlow has been running the x460 in test environments and says he is impressed by its performance. He likes the modular design of the x460, which can be linked externally to grow as large as a 32-processor system.

“We like the fact we can apply the power where we need it in the future,” he says.

With the x460, IBM is targeting HP and Dell, both of which have exited the eight-way and above Xeon server market. Instead, the server makers are focusing on providing two- and four-way Xeon systems that end users can cluster for more computing power.

The x460 is expected to be available June 17 with 3.3-, 3- and 2.83-GHz Xeon chips. The higher-speed chips have 8M bytes of L3 cache, and the lower-end chip has 4M bytes of L3 cache.

Related links:

IBM adds to X3-based server range

IBM proceeds, HP retreats on Xeon servers

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