HP, IBM, Dell Refresh on Intel Nehalem

HP, IBM and Dell are rolling out upgraded lines of servers to coincide with Intel's announcement of the Nehalem EP chip for two-socket systems. In addition to featuring the new Xeon microarchitecture, HP, IBM and Dell also are putting new software features and services into the systems aimed at improving energy efficiency, performance and virtualization capabilities. Numerous smaller vendors, such as Appro and Rackable, also are jumping on the Nehalem bandwagon.

Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Dell are rolling out refreshed lines of servers and supporting software and services that take advantage of new performance and efficiency features offered in Intel's new Nehalem EP processor.

All three vendors are using the March 30 launch of the quad-core Nehalem chip-now known as the Xeon 5500 series-to introduce new features into their servers designed to help enterprises ramp up the performance of their systems while reducing the overall operating costs of their data centers, a key concern given the global recession that is ravaging IT budgets.

And it's not only the top-tier systems makers that are announcing new systems. Vendors from Appro to Rackable Systems are also using the rollout of Nehalem to offer new servers.

Sun Microsystems is expected to launch systems supporting Nehalem soon.

"This is going to be a big step for customers because times are tough," said Paul Gottsegen, vice president of marketing for HP's Industry Standard Server unit.

Alex Yost, vice president of IBM's BladeCenter business, agreed, saying that IT executives constantly are telling him that while their staff and budgets have been cut, the expectations on them are only increasing.

"They're saying, -My staff is smaller, but the job is only getting bigger,'" Yost said. "We've seen a clear mandate [on customers] to improve server levels and reduce costs."

The March 30 announcement of the Nehalem EP processor for two-socket systems is the latest step in a phased rollout of the new Nehalem microarchitecture, which is replacing the current Core architecture. Nehalem chips for high-end PCs were released in the fall, and processors for servers with four or more sockets are expected to be announced later this year.

Key features include Turbo Boost, which dynamically tunes the speed of the chip's cores depending on demands. For example, one core can crank from 2.9GHz to 3.3GHz if necessary, while another core may have its frequency reduced.

"You get additional performance for the same amount of money," said John Spooner, an analyst with Technology Business Research. "It's a -bang for the buck' sort of thing."

The QuickPath chip-to-chip interconnect speeds up bandwidth, and the multithreading capabilities have been enhanced. In addition, the Nehalem architecture includes an integrated memory controller, which eliminates the need for a front-end bus. The integrated controller is a feature that rival Advanced Micro Devices has offered on its Opteron chips since they were first released in 2003.

In conjunction with the Nehalem EP launch, HP is refreshing its ProLiant server line with 11 new platforms, from the low-end ML 150 for SMBs (small and midsize businesses) to its blades and rack-mount servers. Along with the new chip, HP is adding a host of new features designed to help businesses cut energy costs, grow productivity and increase performance, Gottsegen said.

Key new features of the ProLiant G6 systems include the Sea of Sensors, which is a collection of 32 sensors throughout the server-including the power supply, hard drive, processor and memory stick-that track thermal conditions. The sensors give IT administrators the information they need to run the servers as efficiently as possible without having to spend the money or power to overprovision the cooling. Six fans within the servers now work independently, which also will improve efficiency, he said.

HP also is offering its Dynamic Power Capping in all of the servers, which lets managers dynamically set the power drawn by systems. In addition, HP is offering four different power supplies-including one for DC power-that managers can choose from depending on their workloads.

Management features include the ProLiant Onboard Administrator, which enables customers to inspect the health of a server from any location, and HP Insight Control Environment, which enables administrators to manage and monitor their server infrastructures on-site or remotely. HP's Virtual Connect Flex-10 Ethernet module enables users to allocate the bandwidth of a 10 Gigabit Ethernet network port across four NIC connections.

Through the use of the Nehalem chip and HP Smart Array Modular Controllers, the new ProLiants offer twice the memory and storage of current systems and a 200 percent increase in performance. Other features include the HP Server Migration Pack for automatically migrating from older systems to the ProLiant G6 line, a credit point plan and flexible financing options through HP Financial Services.