Multi-CPU Push Is On

IBM leads multiprocessing initiative with Xeon-based, 16-way eServer x440 line.

New multiprocessing servers from IBM, Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Computer Corp. will help enterprises save money, ease management and increase efficiencies by reducing the number of servers in their data centers.

IBM last week began shipping a version of its eServer x440 that is based on 16 Intel Corp. Xeon MP processors. The Armonk, N.Y., company already offers four- and eight-processor versions and next year will offer a Xeon-based 32-processor x440, as well as versions based on Intels 64-bit Itanium 2 chip.

The 16-processor x440s are being offered with the first version of Intels Xeon MP chip, code-named Foster, which runs at 1.6GHz. Starting in January, the server will run the newest version, the more powerful 2GHz Gallatin, said Jay Bretzmann, director of IBMs eServer xSeries. That chip features 1MB of Level 3 on-die memory.

The server, which supports Linux and Windows, starts at $81,332, Bretzmann said. The servers "building block" style enables users to pay for capacity as they need it, he said.

Energy retailer TXU Corp., which uses four- and eight-way x440 servers from IBM primarily, is looking to use the 16-way systems as part of a three-year server consolidation project to help merge database and other high-end applications onto fewer servers. The Dallas-based company, which has 2.7 million customers, is also using software from VMware Inc., of Palo Alto, Calif., to help create virtual partitions within the servers, enabling one server to do the work of about a dozen, said Chris Schuttger, IT infrastructure architect at TXU.

TXU currently uses the four- and eight-way servers to help consolidate its Citrix Systems Inc. server farms and some SQL database applications.

"Weve been looking forward to the 16-ways to come out," Schuttger said. "The bottom line is dollar savings. I have one box, one I/O infrastructure, one set of backplanes. Im not having to buy those again and again."

Brad Day, an analyst with Giga Information Group Inc., in Norwell, Mass., said server consolidation will make up more than 50 percent of the sales of the x440 over the first year. Many of the other sales will be to consolidate "heavy lifting" applications such as enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management.

Meanwhile, HP in the first quarter of 2003 will ship the next generation of its eight-processor ProLiant DL760 server with Xeon MP chips. Currently, the DL760 runs 900MHz Pentium III processors. But the Palo Alto, Calif., company will not go above the eight-way with Xeon chips, preferring instead to use Itanium chips for systems with 16 or more processors, said Paul Miller, director of HPs Industry Standard Servers unit.

The Itanium does a better job handling certain memory issues customers run into when dealing with 16 or more processors, Miller said.

He said HP will release 16-way servers sometime in 2003 to coincide with Microsoft Corp.s .Net Server 2003, which is due in April.

HPs servers support HP-UX, Linux and Windows, which Miller said gives users more choice and flexibility than IBM.

For its part, Dell next year will revamp its eight-way server with Xeon MP Gallatins, said Darrell Ward, senior product manager for Dells PowerEdge servers. The Round Rock, Texas, company currently has a Xeon-based four-way server, but its 3-year-old eight-way, the PowerEdge 8450, features a 900MHz Pentium III chip.

The company this month also refreshed its four-way servers, the PowerEdge 6650 and 6600, with the Gallatin chip.

However, Dell has no plans to expand beyond the eight-way, choosing instead to focus on the more profitable two- and four-way spaces, Ward said.

"The eight-way is about the limit of the market that we want to participate in," Ward said. "We looked at it, but it didnt make any sense for us. If you cant make any money on it, its not a particularly wise thing to do."