Dell, HP Refresh Servers with Intel 'Westmere' Chips

Intel is launching its new six-core "Westmere EP" Xeon processors, and system makers such as IBM, HP, Dell, SGI, Cray and Super Micro are rolling out new and enhanced systems powered by the new chips. The Westmere EP launch comes as Intel prepares to release an eight-core Xeon and AMD readies its 12-core Opteron.

Intel is rolling out its six-core "Westmere EP" Xeon processors, a move that has OEMs such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Dell refreshing their server lineups and is continuing an active quarter in the chip making business.

Intel on March 16 unveiled its new Xeon 5600 series chips, a family of 32-nanometer processors that add greater security features while ramping up performance, virtualization and energy efficiency capabilities, according to company officials.

The new processors replace the 45-nm Xeon 5500 series "Nehalem EP" chips, and are aimed at mainstream servers with up to two sockets.

The Xeon 5600 series "will be the backbone of mainstream computing environments," Kirk Skaugen, vice president and general manager of the Intel Architecture Group, said in a statement. "New security capabilities will boost the confidence of IT managers. Improvements in performance, service virtualization and power consumption will foster productivity and efficiency for a broad range of applications, ranging from data transactions to workstations performing medical imaging and digital prototyping."

A host of server makers are quickly adopting the new Xeon family. Both HP and Dell officials said they were refreshing their line of x86 systems with the new processors. IBM officials said they were introducing new two-socket systems.

McLeod Glass, director of product marketing for HP's Industry Standard Servers business, said the company is putting the Xeon 5600 processors in all of its ProLiant G6 servers, including its blades, rack and tower systems.

When combined with the energy efficiency and management capabilities already incorporated into the server line-such as Dynamic Power Capping and Power Advisor-the result will be improved virtualization capabilities and performance, Glass said in an interview.

HP estimated a 20-to-1 consolidation ratio with the new processors, compared with an 11-to-1 ration with the G6 servers powered by Nehalem EP processors. There also will be a 27-times performance improvement over the G4 family of ProLiants. The Nehalem-based G6 servers offered a 20-times performance boost over the G4s, Glass said.

IBM officials said their new System x M3 and BladeCenter servers will offer 50 percent more cores and 40 to 60 percent better performance. The new lineup includes two rack servers, the x3650 M3 and x3550 M3, which include 50 percent more memory and 60 percent greater storage capacity than previous versions. In addition, the x3650 M3 is 50 percent more energy efficient.

IBM also is rolling out two new tower systems, the x3500 M3 and x3400 M3, and two new blade servers, the BladeCenter HS22 and virtualization-optimized HS22V, which enables users to fit 30 to 50 percent more virtual machines on a phyiscal system.

In addition, the new iDataPlex dx360 M3 improves compute performance by 50 percent on HPC (high-performance computing) workloads.

Dell is putting the Xeon 5600 chips into nine of its PowerEdge systems. Dell officials touted the virtualization, energy efficiency and performance gains from the combination of the Intel chips and features in the Dell servers, all key issues for businesses.

"IT organizations are under increasing pressure to improve business productivity while prioritizing technology spend within decreasing budgets," Brad Anderson, senior vice president for Dell's Business Product Group, said in a statement.

At the same time, Dell announced new features to its Dell Management Console, including a new power monitoring capability and out-of-band server BIOS and firmware updating. In addition, Dell announced the PowerEdge R310, a single-socket rack server aimed at both SMBs and enterprises. That system is powered by Intel's Xeon 3400 series.

Several other OEMs also are putting the Xeon 5600 series chips into their systems. Cray is now offering its line of CX1 deskside supercomputers with the new processors, and SGI is putting the chips into its entire scale-out lineup, including the Altix ICE HPC clusters, CloudRack and Rackable servers, InfiniteStorage systems, the Octane?ö?ñ?? III personal supercomputer and the newly announced Origin 400 blade offering.

The increase in the number of cores along will give the systems a boost, Geoffrey Noer, senior director of product marketing at SGI, said in an interview.

"Everything will move from four cores to six cores," Noer said. "That's a lot of performance in the same amount of space."

Super Micro Computer also is rolling out a selection of server, workstation and blade offerings based on the Intel chips.

Among the enhancements Intel included in the Westmere EP chips are two new security features, including Advanced Encryption Standard New Instructions-or AES-NI-for faster encryption and decryption capabilities. In addition, and Trusted Execution Technology-or TXT-will bring greater security for cloud environments and applications moving between virtualized servers, Intel officials said.

The chips come with four or six cores, with 12MB caches, and range in price from $387 to $1,663 per 1,000 units shipped.

The Westmere EP processors are the latest release in what's turning out to be a busy quarter in the server business. On the high end, both Intel and IBM released the latest iterations of their chips-Intel with its Itanium 9300 "Tukwila" processors and IBM with its Power7 chips.

Intel and rival Advanced Micro Devices also are looking to add to their industry-standard portfolios. Along with the new Xeon 5600 series, Intel this month is expected to roll out its eight-core "Nehalem EX" processors for servers with four or more sockets.

For its part, AMD also is expected to launch its eight- to 12-core "Magny-Cours" Opteron 6000 processors.

Both platforms are expected to vie for workloads traditionally run on Unix-based systems.