IBM readies 32-way Xeon server, hints at Opteron blade

IBM Corp. expects to ship a new 32-processor server based on Intel Corp.'s Xeon processors in the first half of next year and may begin selling its first high-density "blade" server based on Advanced Micro Devices Inc.'s (AMD's) Opteron processor, a company executive said in an interview Tuesday.

The new server, which will be able to run a single operating system on as many as 32 processors, will be a successor to IBM's eServer xSeries 445 server.

"In the beginning of next year, we'll scale all the way up to a 32-way system using the Intel 64-bit architecture," said Susan Whitney, IBM's general manager of xSeries, referring to the 64-bit extensions of the x86 instruction set that Intel began including in its Xeon chips earlier this year.

The new system, which will be the third generation of high-end Intel systems based on the company's X Architecture design, will be introduced at the same time that Intel is scheduled to ship a new Xeon chip, code-named Potomac, which is designed for multiprocessor systems. Also expected in the same time frame are new 64-bit versions of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system that are designed to work with the 64-bit processors.

The fact that low-cost Intel hardware has been making inroads in the data center will make the server more attractive to customers, Whitney said. "It's like the perfect storm. You have the software capabilities emerging, you have the hardware processors, but also the (system) architecture, and then the economic realities, and it's all helping to fuel this scale-up demand."

X Architecture draws on technologies used for IBM's mainframe and Unix server products. Because it uses a modular design in which processors can be added or taken away without much difficulty, the move to a 32-processor system did not present a major technical challenge, Whitney said.

Two issues that had been hampering IBM's move to very large Xeon systems were the availability of processors and software that supported 64-bit applications, she said. "Our technology could scale to 32-way, but with only 32 bits there wasn

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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