IBM eX5 Servers Scale Memory for Virtualized Environment

At the CeBIT show, IBM is unveiling x86 servers with the latest generation of its X-Architecture technology. Key to the eX5 servers is the decoupling of memory from the chip, enabling IT managers to scale the memory in their data centers without having to buy entire new servers. The new systems will increase memory scalability by 600 percent and cut in half the number of servers needed for given workloads.

IBM is unveiling a new family of x86 servers designed to enable enterprises to scale the memory of their virtualized data center environments without having to buy new systems.

At the CeBIT show in Germany March 2, IBM is announcing the first of its eX5 servers sporting the vendor's new fifth-generation X-Architecture chip, which will work in concert with Intel's upcoming eight-core "Nehalem EX" Xeon processors for systems with four or more sockets.

With its upgraded x86 solution, IBM is looking to break the lock that ties together memory and processors to create a more flexible and scalable solution in such memory-intense environments as virtualized and highly consolidated data centers, according to Tom Bradicich, IBM fellow and vice president of systems technology

"Before, if an IT manager needed more memory, the IT manager would need to buy a whole new server," Bradicich said in an interview. Having to do so would mean not only spending money for items-such as processors-that weren't needed, but also adding to the management headaches and data center sprawl.

With IBM's new systems, which decouple the memory from the processor, IT administrators can expand their memory footprint without having to buy entire new servers, he said.

"You don't have to buy the whole Happy Meal to get the prize," Bradicich said.

The x86 server market grew out of the PC space, where the memory and processor were tightly tied together.

"This if the first step in taking the PC out of the PC server," he said. "Unlike our competitors, we don't think that the architecture of a PC should serve as a server architecture."

IBM, which is looking to continue gaining ground on rival Hewlett-Packard in the x86 space, sees the memory capabilities as a key differentiator. Bradicich said the new eX5 servers enable users to get more done with fewer systems.

According to IBM, the eX5 systems, with its independent memory scaling, offers 600 percent more memory than is currently available in the industry.

Joe Clabby, principal analyst at Clabby Analytics, said that as enterprises push to bring more virtualization into their data centers to help consolidate systems-and with the growth of multicore processors and 64-bit computing-memory in x86 environments has been a key challenge.

"You've got all the processing power, but the problem with x86 is, how do you manage the memory?" Clabby said in an interview.

Many enterprise IT administrators he's spoken with are reluctant to virtualize more than 50 percent of their data center environments because of the memory issues. With greater memory management, enterprises should be able to virtualize 80 percent or more of their data centers.

"That's a 30 percent gain," he said.