New Servers to Take Hold of 2GHz Xeon MP Chips

Intel Corp. this week plans to release its beefiest Xeon MP processor to date.

Intel Corp. this week plans to release its beefiest Xeon MP processor to date—a 2GHz chip with 2MB of Level 3 on-die memory—and system manufacturers are ready to roll out servers based on the technology.

In addition to the 2GHz processor, the Santa Clara, Calif., chip maker will release this week two other versions of the high-end, enterprise system chip, code-named Gallatin—1.9GHz and 1.5GHz versions with 1MB of on-die L3 cache.

IBM this week is unveiling two servers and one server upgrade that will use the Xeon MPs. The new models are the four-way eServer xSeries 255 rack-and-tower system, for $6,169, and the four-way x360 rack-dense server, for $7,299.

The Armonk, N.Y., company will also offer upgraded four- and eight-way models of the x440, a system design that can accommodate as many as 16 processors, starting at $18,099. The eServer models featuring the 2GHz Xeon MP will deliver up to 20 percent more throughput at the same price as the systems they replace, IBM officials said.

Hewlett-Packard Co., of Palo Alto, Calif., the leading seller of four- and eight-way Intel-based servers, will integrate the processors into its four-way ProLiant ML570, starting at $6,599, and eight-way ProLiant DL760, pricing for which has not been set.

In addition, Dell Computer Corp., of Round Rock, Texas, will offer Gallatin processors in its PowerEdge 6600 and 6650 servers, starting at $6,000, officials said.

Designed for high-end enterprise systems, Intels new chips carry premium price tags, with the 2GHz Xeon MP priced at $3,692, the 1.9GHz offered at $1,980 and the 1.5GHz selling for $1,177.

As a result of faster frequencies and large on-die caches, the new Xeons will perform up to 38 percent faster than their predecessors, Intel said.

Intel is targeting the chips to compete with servers equipped with Sun Microsystems Inc.s UltraSPARC III chip. Sun is the worlds largest maker of high-end Unix-based servers, an area in which Intels 64-bit Itanium plays.

"My view is that Xeon and Itanium are competing against each other inside of Intel and that the Xeon managers arent interested in holding the cap down on their technology to make room for Itanium," said John Enck, an analyst with Gartner Inc., in Fort Collins, Colo.

However, Intel officials said the Xeon MP and Itanium are aimed at different niches. For example, some large databases need to address more RAM than a 32-bit system can and need Itaniums 64-bit architecture, they said. Overall, a four-way Xeon MP can address up to 32GB of RAM, compared with a theoretical petabyte of RAM for Itanium-based systems. In addition, the Itanium outshines the Xeon in floating-point performance, making it better suited for high-end scientific systems, they said.

"Were using the IBM x440 [Xeon MP-based server] and plugging it in to our iSeries [IBM 64-bit mainframe], and the fault tolerance and the ease of operation are phenomenal," said Bob Cancilla, director of corporate systems planning for Republic Indemnity Co. of America, in Encino, Calif. However, Cancilla said, Xeon-based systems cant match the enterprise-class stability and reliability of 64-bit mainframes and wont replace mainframes soon.