IBM ships 16-way Xeon server

IBM Corp. is now shipping a server with 16 of Intel Corp.’s Xeon processors that fits into an 8U (14-inch) rack space, it announced Wednesday.

IBM announced the eServer x440 in April as a four-way system. With Wednesday’s announcement, the company is following through on its commitment to allow its customers to expand their x440 servers as their processing demands increase, said Deepak Advani, vice-president for IBM eServer xSeries servers.

The x440 can now support a 16-processor configuration. Users can either upgrade their existing servers, or purchase a new 16-way server as of Wednesday, Advani said.

Intel’s older Foster Xeon chips, not the most recently announced Gallatin Xeons, provide the processing power behind the eServer x440. Configurations with the newer Gallatin chips, which have faster clock speeds and higher cache, will be available in the first quarter of 2003, Advani said.

Large databases will be the primary applications run on 16-way x440 servers, said Brad Day, senior analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. Customers will also likely run complex software such as ERP (enterprise resource planning) or CRM (customer relationship management) software on this server, he said.

While IBM is committed to the 32-bit Xeon chips at the moment, at some point its customers are going to have to make a decision whether or not to scale to 32-way Xeon servers or migrate to Intel’s 64-bit Itanium processor, Day said. The Itanium processor requires IT departments to recompile existing applications to run on servers with the chip, but the performance benefits might be worth the extra effort compared to the cost of acquiring and maintaining a 32-way server, he said.

The xSeries servers are designed to allow users to change out 32-bit components for 64-bit ones, Day said.

A base configuration of the IBM eServer X440 uses 16 of Intel’s Xeon MP processors, 8GB of memory, and two 18GB hard drives. It costs US$81,332 without an operating system, but IBM will ship the server with an operating system upon a customer request, Advani said.