Apple Tips Hand at Nehalem-Based Xserve

An online store of one of Apple's Asian Websites offered customers a way to preorder an Apple Xserve rack server that is powered by Intel's new quad-core Xeon 5500 series processors, more commonly known as Nehalem EP, which was released March 30. The link, which was not functional, added to speculation among Apple enthusiasts that the company will start selling Nehalem-based Xserve systems within a few weeks.

Apple apparently gave customers a quick glimpse at plans to start selling Xserve servers powered by Intel's new Nehalem EP processors.

According to reports, Apple's online store in Hong Kong April 2 offered a link designed to let customers preorder the 1U rack servers with the quad-core Xeon 5500 series chips that Intel unveiled March 30.

The link read: "Preorder the new Xserve with Intel Xeon (Nehalem)."

The link apparently wasn't working; instead it brought customers back to the regular Xserve site.

However, it did add fuel to the speculation on Apple enthusiast Websites that Apple will soon start offering its Xserve with the Nehalem chip inside.

See which server makers jumped on the Nehalem bandwagon.

For example, the site AppleInsider reported March 31 that Apple within weeks will start selling Xserve systems with Intel's Xeon 5500 "Gainesville" and 3500 "Bloomfield" chips, the latter of which Apple already offers in its latest family of Mac Pro workstations.

An Apple spokesperson did not return a call seeking comment. Apple officials traditionally refuse to comment on future products.

Intel unveiled the Nehalem EP chips for two-socket systems to great fanfare. The new processor microarchitecture is aimed at improving system performance while driving down power and cooling costs.

The architecture includes an integrated memory controller, a technology that rival Advanced Micro Devices has offered on its Opteron processors since 2003 and which does away with the need for a Front-Side Bus, all of which speeds up the communication between the chip and memory.

In addition, the chip includes a chip-to-chip interconnect.

There also are improved virtualization and energy-efficiency features. The Xeon 5500 series offers triple the memory bandwidth of previous chips and can dynamically adjust to multiple and disparate workloads and conditions. The chip offers an idle power level of 10 watts, up to 15 automated operating states and the ability to boost the clock speed of individual cores when needed.

Most server makers-including Dell, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Fujitsu, Rackable Systems and Appro-unveiled new or upgraded systems featuring the Xeon 5500 series on the day of Intel's announcement.

Intel is drawing out its rollout of the Nehalem chip architecture, which will replace the current Core architecture. The company launched the Nehalem chips for high-end PCs and workstations in the fall, and the Nehalem EX, for systems with four or more sockets, is expected later this year.