Dell, Lenovo Systems Herald Intel Nehalem Launch

Dell and Lenovo unveiled new systems powered by Intel's upcoming Nehalem EP chip designed for two-socket systems. Intel is expected to officially launch the new chip at an event in San Francisco March 30. The Nehalem architecture focuses on improving performance and efficiency through such features as an integrated memory controller similar to that found on AMD's Opteron chip and greater support of virtualization technologies. Analysts expect healthy adoption of systems using the Intel chip, which is aimed at the high-volume segment of the server space, despite the global recession.

Dell's recent unveiling of new servers and workstations based on Intel's upcoming "Nehalem" processor design is the latest move by a vendor leading up to the chip's official launch next week.

Intel is expected to formally announce the Nehalem EP chips at an event in San Francisco March 30, where it will be joined by a host of systems vendors-including IBM and Hewlett-Packard-looking to take advantage of new performance and efficiency capabilities in Nehalem.

Dell officials March 25 announced that their next-generation PowerEdge servers and workstations, as well as their M-series blade architecture, will be powered by the new quad-core Xeon chips. That move came a day after Lenovo unveiled a pair of workstations-the ThinkStation S20 and D20-also powered by the new Intel chips.

Rackable Systems March 20 announced the CloudRack C2, a server rack cabinet that offers a combination of processors from Advanced Micro Devices and Intel, includuing Nehalem. Rackable also is planning new servers based on the Nehalem EP chip.

Cisco Systems' Unified Computing System data center strategy includes new blade servers powered by Nehalem.

The launch of Nehalem EP-which is aimed at two-socket servers-is part of a gradual rollout by Intel of the new architecture. Despite the troubled global economy, some industry observers expect strong adoption of systems sporting the new chip.

"People are still buying a lot of servers, and particularly two-socket systems, which is really the sweet spot for the [server] space," said Gordon Haff, an analyst with Illuminata.

Intel is promising greater performance as well as greater efficiency in the new Nehalem microarchitecture, which should resonate during these recessionary times. At an event with Dell March 25, Intel officials pointed to enhanced virtualization capabilities within Nehalem that will allow businesses to consolidate even more workloads onto fewer physical servers, which will save them money on hardware and software costs, power and cooling, and data center space.

Performance also will increase now that Intel is offering an integrated memory controller, which will eliminate the front-side bus, something that AMD has had in its Opteron chips since 2003.

Intel and AMD will continue to try to outdo each other in the performance and efficiency departments as they roll out new products and platforms.

AMD in November officially launched "Shanghai," the 45-nanometer version of its quad-core Opteron chip that also emphasized greater virtualization and efficiency features.

A new six-core Opteron, codenamed "Istanbul," is due out by the second half of 2009 and will be aimed at the higher-end two- and four-socket server market.

Intel in September launched its own six-core Xeon processor, dubbed "Dunnington," which is aimed at servers with four sockets or more.