IBM Unveils New X3 Architecture, Hurricane Chip Set for xSeries Servers

The x366 system will be the first to feature the new X3 architecture and chip set, which are designed to bring mainframe- and supercomputer-like technologies to the rapidly growing x86 server space.

When IBM introduced the first Enterprise X-Architecture to its line of Intel Corp.-based systems in 2001, it soon came to dominate the eight-way space of the market, according to company officials.

IBM aims to do the same in the four-way space with the introduction Tuesday of the next generation of the architecture, X3, and a new chip set designed for its xSeries line of Intel servers.

Fundamentally, the architecture and "Hurricane" chip set are designed to bring mainframe- and supercomputer-like technologies to the rapidly growing x86 server space. Those technologies include greater virtualization capabilities through IBMs Virtualization Engine, improved data management, faster I/O through PCI-X 2 support, memory control and embedded DRAM.

The new architecture will first appear in the x366 system within the next 90 days, and will roll out to other xSeries servers later, according to Jay Bretzmann, director of IBM eServer products. The 3U (5.25-inch) rack-optimized x366 also will support Intels 64-bit-enabled Xeon MP processors when they are released later this quarter and future dual-core chips. Xeons are scheduled to get dual-core capabilities in early 2006.

The new offerings—which Bretzmann said will lead to a 40 percent performance increase over current Intel systems—represent a $100 million investment over three years by IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., which views the architecture as a key differentiator as it competes with Dell Inc. in the $25 billion Intel server market.

"The focus of the third generation [of Enterprise X-Architecture] was solely on performance," Bretzmann said.

For example, the latency between the processor and memory was reduced by more than 2 times.

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After the first generation of the architecture was introduced, IBMs market share of the eight-way space went from 17 percent in 2001 to about 60 percent now. Bretzmann said he expects the new architecture to do the same in the four-way space.

The Intel space is dominated by two-way systems, he said. However, more enterprises are looking for greater headroom in their systems—something that the 64-bit capabilities and dual-core technology will offer—and are viewing applications that once were on the edge of the network, such as e-mail, as mission-critical software.

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