RealTime IT News

IBM Bridges to Madison Chips

IBM Monday will unveil a slew of new xSeries servers to hail the arrival of the long-anticipated "Madison" Itanium 2 chips from Intel .

The Armonk, N.Y. giant's prize in the lot is the eServer xSeries 445, a server based on the company's second generation of its vaunted Enterprise X-Architecture (EXA) technology that can scale up to 32 Intel Xeon Processors MP. The other 6 new xSeries machines today are based on Xeon and Itanium 2 architectures.

For IBM, the news shows full-blown support for the Itanium 2 architecture it had once been reticent support because, as IBM Product Manager eServer xSeries systems Jay Bretzmann put it, Windows 2003 wasn't ready yet. "There just wasn't enough applications at the time to warrant building systems with Itanium 2."

The x445 features the company's patented XpandOnDemand configuration, which allows customers to increase computing capacity on demand and pay for the capacity as it is activated. Such technology is a cornerstone in the company's e-business on-demand computing push, where customers control how much computing power is used as opposed to having IT infrastructure sit and depreciate in value during latent periods.

Singapore Polytechnic has already selected the x445 for its new scale up infrastructure to support the E-Cell research project and Virtual High Throughput Screening for possible drug leads against Dengue Virus.

Tailored for Intel chips, EXA is designed to lower a company's total-cost-of-ownership with it "pay-as-you-grow" XpanOnDemand technology and help lower cost of operations with mainframe inspired technologies. IBM's Bretzmann said IBM has come a long way in defining the benefits of EXA to customers since it was introduced in December 2001.

"Our next step was to take the opportunity to reduce latency and increase performance," Bretzmann said. "We don't have to teach people what pay-as-you-grow is anymore. XpandOnDemand allows database customers to buy a server up front and they don't have to worry about painful upgrades."

Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff said the XpandOnDemand features in the new IBM servers center on availability and scalability, in addition to bearing attractive price points.

Meanwhile rival HP has seized upon IBM's hesitation to jump out of the gate and take the lead on Itanium 2 system sales, according to Haff, who said IBM is in an interesting position because its Power chip architecture in the company's pSeries line "certainly competes with Itanium on some levels."

Bretzmann doesn't think HP's lead at this point presents a significant advantage. "That kind of thing matters when you're talking about a mature technology," he said. "This is not quite the case with Itanium 2. There are more applications and this is more of a mature ecosystem than it was."

As of now, HP, IBM and Unisys are the leading supporters of Itanium 2, although Dell Wednesday threw itself into the mix with a high-performance 64-bit system designed for high-end computing tasks such as movie special effects and genomic research. Unisys has also indicated it is developing a new Itanium 2-based family of servers that go from 4- to 16-way.

Specs for the IBM servers, which run Linux and Windows, are as follows:

  • The x445 is available in 4U building blocks with 4 eight processors each. Ideal for server consolidation, it also includes up to 64GB memory per chassis, remote input/output + RIO Sharing and Active Memory with Hot-swap Memory and Hot-add Memory. The eServer x445 is available on July 1 at a base price of $18,699, with a the 32-way version coming later this year.
  • The x450 uses Intel's 1.5 Ghz Itanium 2 processor with 6MB of L3 cache memory and includes XpandOnDemand I/O, and OnForever availability. It will be available July 18 at an entry price of $28,599.
  • The eServer x382 includes up to 2 Itanium 2 processors in a 2U system optimized for the Linux cluster configurations for technical and scientific groups at a starting price $26,589 August 20.

IBM also said new Intel Xeon MP processors would be available for its rack and tower systems, including the x360, x205, x225 and x255. Ideally, these systems are geared to provide more modular flexibility for customers. Available now, the x360 and x255 are available immediately, starting at $7,059 and $6,610, respectively. The x205 will be available July 15 for $499 and the x225 will be ready for sale August 1 at $2,039.