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IBM's 'Hurricane' Chipset Blows Into Market

IBM is debuting a new custom chip technology and xSeries server in a move to gain more market share versus Dell and HP in the Intel server market.

The company unveiled X3 architecture and the new Hurricane chipset, the fruit of a three-year, $100 million research and development effort. IBM also introduced IBM eServer xSeries 366, the first server to use X3 technology.

The move may seem curious to some server experts who view the Intel-based server market as commoditizing. But for IBM, the effort is as much an exercise in proving its technological might as it is its marketing force.

It is fair to say IBM is obsessed with furthering its Intel server cause, partly because IDC estimates the Intel server market is currently worth $25 billion and is expected to rise to $37 billion by 2008. Another reason is that IBM has come so far in such a short period of time.

According to IDC, IBM's Intel server market share in 2001 was about 14 percent, compared to Dell's 19 percent and HP's 35 percent shares. Since 2001, with the introduction of its first X-Architecture, Summit, IBM has grown market share to 20 percent using a methodical blend of new functionality and performance to lure customers from Dell and Intel.

"Superior technology from IBM in Intel servers is proving more appealing than Dell's off the rack, low tech commodity boxes," IBM said in a statement.

IBM director of eServers Jay Bretzman said that is where the X3 comes in, providing up to 40 percent more performance than previous Xeon-based systems and supporting both 32- and 64-bit applications.

The first machine to leverage IBM's X3 architecture is the xSeries 366, a four-way server that will be mostly powered by the forthcoming Intel Xeon DP Cranford processor. With Extended Memory 64 technology and demand-based switching with SpeedStep technology, Cranford can improve system performance by more than 35 percent when a maximum of 64 gigabytes of memory is used.

At the heart of the x366 is the Hurricane Node Controller, which provides latency reduction that improves response times and allows machines to run with two chips instead of three. This technology will make the x366 the fastest four-socket x86 server in the market, he said.

"We think our innovations will be quickly adopted with the mid-tier applications, the business logic software that sits between the Web server and the back end," Bretzman said.

X3 is intended to complement Cranford, for which Bretzman declined to name pricing or clock speeds. But he said the public can expect to hear more about Cranford in the next 90 days.

The IBM eServer xSeries 366 server will be available within 90 days, with pricing to be announced at that time. X3 systems will arrive concurrently with new 64-bit x86 operating system software from technology partners such as Microsoft, Red Hat and Novell.