IBM Plans 32-Way Intel-Based Server

eServer x445 to use a faster version of Gallatin chip; company also upgrading XA-32 chip set.

IBM, which late last year began shipping a version of its powerful eServer x440 system equipped with 16 Intel Corp. processors, later this year will begin shipping a 32-processor version.

The eServer x445 will begin shipping at midyear, in keeping with Intels road map for its Xeon processor, Deepak Advani, vice president of IBMs eServer xSeries, said in an interview with eWeek.

Currently, Intels most powerful 32-bit Xeon MP Gallatin chip—which is what IBM uses in its 16-way x440 server—is a 2GHz version with 2MB of Level 3 cache. The Santa Clara, Calif., chip maker will release a faster version of Gallatin later this year. Advani said IBMs 32-processor server will be powered by the faster chip.

Advani said IBM technologies give the company an edge in the Intel-based server space. The companys Enterprise X-Architecture, for example, comprises hardware and software features designed to bring performance-enhancing technologies from the companys mainframe systems into its high-end Intel-based servers.

The x440 server also features IBMs expand-on-demand technology, which enables users to pay only for the power they use, Advani said.

In addition, IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., is planning several upgrades to its XA-32 chip set, which will also follow along Intels road maps, according to Advani. The next upgrade is scheduled for summer, followed by another one at the end of next year. Improvements will include larger cache and increased bandwidth.

IBM scales its Intel-based systems

  • Name eServer x445
  • Features Up to 32 Gallatin processors
  • Shipping Midyear
  • Workload Compute-intensive applications, such as transaction processing or ERP
A 32-processor Xeon system would be attractive to enterprises already tied to the Wintel road map that want more power and performance for such applications as ERP (enterprise resource planning), customer relationship management and databases, said Gordon Haff, an analyst with Illuminata Inc.

"Its for a business that doesnt have a 64-bit Windows environment today," said Haff, in Nashua, N.H. "I see the 16-way [and] 32-way 32-bit system for people who have made their commitment to Wintel ... and they need a bigger system for their back end."

The IBM option may be rare. Although Hewlett-Packard Co. in January began shipping its eight-processor ProLiant DL760, officials said the Palo Alto, Calif., company will not equip its servers with more than eight Xeon processors, preferring instead to use Intels Itanium chips in systems with 16 or more processors. For example, HP will ship versions of its Superdome server with 32 and 64 Itanium processors. Itanium is the 64-bit chip HP co-developed with Intel.

For its part, Dell Computer Corp. has no plans to expand its servers beyond eight processors, officials at the Round Rock, Texas, company said. However, Unisys Corp., of Blue Bell, Pa., does offer an ES7000 server with 32 Xeon processors.

IBMs pushing of 32-bit Xeon technology into a 32-processor system illustrates a basic difference between that company and HP, Haff said.

"HP is very much into promoting Itanium," said Haff. "[HP is] not really interested in putting Xeon very high. IBM is not particularly high on Itanium."