IBM to unwrap first dual-core Xeon ‘Paxville’ servers

IBM Corp. is due to unveil its first two 64-bit servers based on Intel Corp.’s dual-core Xeon chip, formerly code-named Paxville DP, when the chip giant launches the processor Monday.

Under a promotional deal to last through year-end, Big Blue will sell one of the servers for the same price as the single-core model it replaces, according to an IBM executive. The move is designed to provide an additional incentive for users to adopt dual-core computing sooner rather than later.

Dual-core computing is the placing together of two CPUs (central processing units) on a single piece of silicon as a way to both cut costs and lower thermal emissions. Since processor-intensive tasks can be handled separately, dual-core chips can also help improve the performance of multithreaded applications.

“Dual-core is the future,” Alex Yost, director of xSeries and IntelliStation products with IBM’s systems and technology group, said in a phone interview Thursday. “It offers the best performance per dollar and per watt. We believe customers will switch over where dual-core [technology] is available.” By the end of next year, he estimates that two-way and four-way dual-core technologies will power almost 100 percent of the servers in the market.

The dual-core two-way xSeries 346 is a 2U rack server and will have a starting price of US$2,969, the same price as the previous single-core xSeries 346, according to Yost. U is the standard unit for measuring the space between shelves on a server rack where 1U equals 1.75 inches.

Shipping in mid-October, the xSeries 346 will be powered by a dual-core Xeon chip with a clock speed of 2.8GHz and will come with 2G bytes of DDR (double data rate) II memory, Yost said. The server will also feature eight memory sockets supporting a maximum of 16G bytes of memory and four PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) slots, Yost said. The PCI slots are in addition to the server’s RAID (redundant arrays of independent disks) and systems management cards, he added.

The dual-core xSeries 336 is a 1U rack server and will also be powered by a dual-core Xeon chip running at 2.8GHz, according to Yost. IBM expects to ship the server in November and plans to release more specifications and pricing details at that time.

Both servers are built on a design IBM debuted in August 2004, Yost said, its eXtended Design Architecture, which was created in part to handle the demands of dual-core computing. The architecture includes a Big Blue technology, Calibrated Vectored Cooling, which optimizes the flow of cooled air through the server.

When it comes to dual-core computing, Intel has significantly lagged behind rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) in bringing chips to market. Although there won’t be any announcements from server vendors to support it, Intel will also talk Monday about its multicore Xeon processor, code-named Paxville MP, according to Yost.

Back in August, Intel announced that development of both Paxville DP and MP was ahead of schedule, enabling the company to deliver the chip this year in advance of the original delivery date of 2006.

“There are some areas where [AMD’s] Opteron will continue to outperform Xeon,” Yost said, including Intel’s front-side bus design, which analysts suggest can be a drag on performance compared with the AMD chip. “Paxville DP is great progress for Intel,” he added.

Hewlett-Packard Co. is also expected to announce dual-core Xeon powered ProLiant servers when the Intel chip debuts Monday. Dell Inc. has already announced that it intends to ship a mix of servers, blades and workstations based on dual-core Xeon processors in the first half of this month.

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