Memory a Huge Pain Point
IDC analyst Matt Eastwood said that memory "has been a huge pain point for customers" not only looking to virtualize their environments but also running such workloads as large databases. IBM's Bradicich said that IBM not only is offering the independent memory in its eX5 systems, but also new flash storage technology, which combined will mean 30 times better database performance than current systems, 99 percent better performance-per-watt, and the ability to run 78 percent more virtual servers for the same licensing cost. The systems will cut in half the number of servers needed for given workloads.Other features include FlexNode, which enables a single server to become two distinct systems and then be reduced to a single system when needed; scheduled provisioning; and improved security by greater isolation of workloads. IBM's System Director management software also will enable IT administrators to preconfigure servers, remotely repurpose them, and create automatic updates and recoveries. In all, IBM will roll out three new eX5 systems during the year. There will be a highly scalable four-socket system, a new blade design and an entry-level two-socket system that-with the new features-will offer enterprise-level performance. This will be the first time IBM has brought its X-Architecture capabilities to blade servers, Bradicich said. In the past, the technology has been offered only in rack-mount servers. IBM's introduction of its new eX5 systems comes at a particularly opportune time, according to analysts. Not only is Intel getting ready to launch its Nehalem EX chip line, but enterprises that have been holding back on replacing older servers due to the global recession are preparing to aggressively refresh the systems this year. In addition, the push for converged data center solutions continues to rise, and x86 systems are increasingly expanding the workloads they can run as Intel and Advanced Micro Devices push their processors into the higher end. Not only is Intel preparing Nehalem EX, but also this month, AMD will launch its 12-core "Magny-Cours" Opteron chips. At the same time, the Unix market continues to shrink, and x86 is becoming a larger part of the server market. Sun Microsystems SPARC/Solaris customers are jumping ship after the company was bought by Oracle for $7.4 billion, and while some are moving to IBM's Power or HP's Itanium-based Integrity line, others are taking a look at x86. "There's a huge opportunity for x86 [vendors]," Clabby said. That also could present a challenge for IBM, IDC's Eastwood said. IBM will have to work to keep the eX5 systems from stepping on the toes of its Power and lower-end System z mainframe systems. IBM already is making a strong move in the x86 space, Eastwood said. The company in 2009 grew its blade market share by 5 percentage points, and its standing in the four-socket space by 3.5 points, he said. And now, by adding blades and a two-socket server to the eX5 lineup, IBM will be addressing the entire x86 market. Both Eastwood and Clabby said a key differentiator for IBM is its heritage in mainframes and high-end Unix servers. IBM is able to cascade advanced features from those higher-end systems to its x86 servers. "Other vendors don't quite have that lineage," Clabby said.
The highly optimized solid-state drives will slash storage costs by 97 percent by replacing hundreds of hard-disk drives and thousands of wires and cables, he said.