Apple Launches Nehalem-Powered Xserve

Apple is unveiling an upgrade Xserve system powered by Intel's new Xeon 5500 series chips, also known as Nehalem EP. The Apple announcement comes a week after Intel launched Nehalem EP, and less than a week after Apple enthusiast sites started talking about an upcoming Xserve with the new Xeons inside. Apple officials say the new Xserve offers twice the performance of the previous model, and an 89 percent improvement in performance per watt. The metrics mirror the pitch Intel officials made about the Nehalem architecture being able to drive up performance and energy efficiency while reducing operating costs.

Apple is rolling out an Xserve system powered by Intel's new Nehalem EP processor, less than a week after speculation spread across Apple enthusiast Websites about the upgrade.

Apple officials said the enhanced 1U Xserve, announced April 7, offers up to twice the performance and an 89 percent improvement in performance per watt, a key measurement that Intel executives highlighted when releasing the new processor and chip architecture March 30.

The rack-optimized Xserve can run up to two of the quad-core Intel Xeon 5500 series chips-which have a clock speed of up to 2.93 GHz-and also offer several storage options, including an optional 128GB SSD (solid-state disk) drive, support for 7,200 rpm SATA 15,000 rpm SAS drives, and up to 3 terabytes of internal storage.

Click here to get a look at the new Nehalem systems.

Apple officials touted the upgrades.

"The Xserve is the best workgroup server for our education, business and creative customers," David Moody, vice president of worldwide Mac product marketing, said in a statement. "With up to twice the performance, better power efficiency and an innovative SSD drive option, this is the best Xserve we've ever made."

When introducing the Nehalem EP chip for two-socket systems March 30, Intel officials stressed the new architecture's ability to ramp up performance and energy efficiency while driving down operating costs.

A key new feature to the Nehalem architecture is the integrated memory controller, which does away with the Front-Side Bus and speeds up the communication between the chip and memory. Rival Advanced Micro Devices has been using an integrated memory controller on its Opteron processors since 2003.

The new chips also offer a direct chip-to-chip interconnect, lower power draw for idle cores, the ability to dynamically boost the clock speed of individual cores and greater virtualization capabilities.

A host of OEMs-including Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Fujitsu, NEC and Rackable Systems-have unveiled new or upgraded systems based on the new processor. Sun Microsystems and Intel worked together to optimize the Solaris operating system for the Nehalem architecture, and is expected soon to introduce new servers powered by the chips.

Intel is conducting a gradual rollout of the Nehalem architecture. The chips for high-end PCs and workstations was released in the fall; the Nehalem EX chips for servers with four or more sockets is expected later this year.

Other features in Apple's newest Xserve include two PCI Express 2.0 x16 expansion slots for greater I/O bandwidth and a 72-hour backup battery for greater data protection.

A standard configuration for the Xserve-which includes a single 2.26 GHz Xeon 5500 series chip with 8MB of L3 cache, 3GB of 1066 DDR3 memory, onboard dual Gigabit Ethernet and an unlimited license for Max OS X Server version 10.5 Leopard-starts at $2,999.