IBM’s use of AMD chips puts pressure on Intel


The announcement by IBM Corp. that it will deploy Advance Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) processors on an additional line of blade and rack servers puts pressure on Intel Corp. to speed up its development cycle, according to a Canadian server market analyst.

New to the IBM lineup are the BladeCenter LS21 and LS41 blade servers and the System x3455, System x3655 and System x3755.

IBM has carried systems based on chips from Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) since 2003, but competitors like Sun Microsystems Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) have sold wider ranges of x86 servers.

“This is going to be a game of leap frog between AMD and Intel,” said Alan Freedman, manager of infrastructure hardware for the research group IDC Canada Inc. in Toronto.

“This puts a lot of pressure on Intel to speed up its processor development cycle to come out with a competing product,” he added.

Freedman also thinks the move builds on IBM’s theme of offering more customer choice and will allow Big Blue to compete effectively with the likes of Palo Alto, Calif-based HP, Dell Inc. in Road Rock, Texas and Sun Microsystems of Santa Clara, Calif. “This will level the playing field and provide IBM a competitive differentiator.”

“HP has had a broader product line, but after today there are no excuses,” said Jeff Benck, a spokesman for IBM.

The new servers will use AMD’s “Rev F” Opteron processor, giving them an advantage over products like Sun’s new SunFire line, which uses the older Rev E design, Benck said.

The Rev F will bring improved virtualization, an upgrade from DDR1 to DDR2 memory, and quad-core capability for future expansion, said AMD spokesman Phil Hughes. AMD plans to formally unveil the Rev F chip on Aug. 15, but has already begun shipping it to vendors.

The announcement was a big win for AMD, which has steadily gained market share with its Opteron design, but has seen rival Intel Corp. challenge that momentum with the recent launch of new server chips.

IBM also hopes to sell the servers based on their power efficiency. The company predicts that by 2007 data centers will be forced to spend more money on power and cooling than on new server acquisitions.

The new family uses a collection of hardware and software technologies called Cool Blue, capable of running the servers with 40 percent better performance per watt than competing blade chassis, said Susan Whitney, general manager of IBM’s System x server group.

The system reduces server heat emissions by chilling discharged air with a water-cooled door that covers the back of each rack. That helps the new servers take full advantage of the new chips.

The LS21 is a two-chip blade server optimized for high performance computing such as scientific research and financial services, while the LS41 can scale up to four chips for larger enterprise applications such as data warehouses and enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.

The System x computers are designed for applications ranging from database and Linux clusters for the model 3455, video on demand and IP (Internet protocol) television for the model 3655, and large enterprise tasks like weather simulation for the 3755.

IBM will announce product pricing and availability during the third quarter, once AMD launches its Rev F chip, formally called the Next-Generation Opteron.