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Hardware Today: Midyear Server Report Card Page 2

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted Jun 27, 2005


 

Dual-Core Delight

Gartner Enck notes a parallel trend with 64-bit acceptance — the introduction of dual-core support for x86 processors.

"Dual-core support will allow customers to continue to up the performance ramp with x86 processors without experiencing high heat and high power loads," says Enck.

The Sun Fire V40z (4 processors) and Sun Fire V20z (2 processors) servers, for example, support dual-core technology to give a 4-processor system the performance of an 8-way server. IBM, too, has announced the eServer xSeries 366, the first in a planned IBM family of dual-core-capable Intel-based server offerings. It is aimed squarely at midtier business logic applications (e.g., those from SAP, Oracle, and Siebel) that use 64-bit memory addressing in conjunction with Intel's front-side bus architecture. In addition to dual-core Intel, IBM has unveiled the eServer 326, which is built with AMD dual-core Opteron 275 processors.

"Dual-core support will allow customers to continue to up the performance ramp with x86 processors without experiencing high heat and high power loads." — Gartner analyst John Enck
Similarly, HP released ProLiant and BladeSystem servers using AMD Opteron dual-core processors. The HP ProLiant DL385 was the industry's first 2U rack-optimized, two-socket AMD Opteron-processor-based server. HP also introduced the dual-core HP ProLiant DL585.

"x86 dual-core Opteron processors can boost certain enterprise application performance by nearly 75 percent," says Cox. "The next few months will see the introduction of dual core to the Itanium family with the 'Montecito processor and x86 dual core moving from the MP segment to the UP and DP markets."

Virtualization Gains Ground

Enck stresses one other server trend: the increased interest and deployment of virtualization software, such as VMware GSX, VMware ESC, and Microsoft Virtual Server.

"Virtualization technology now extends across all operating systems and all processor types," he says. "Virtualization is of keen interest because it allows customers to drive up server efficiency — and in some cases drive consolidation projects.

IBM, for example, has big plans for its IBM Director hardware management platform, with the release of Director 5.1 expected in the next few months. Currently, Director provides a consistent, single point of management and automation for IBM eServers, as well as for virtualization capabilities. With version 5.1, Director will improve the integration between server, storage, and networking management so users can manage the entire infrastructure, not just servers. Users will be able to configure storage and networking while they configure servers, with the same process.

One big challenge to both virtualization and dual core is software licensing. Should vendors support "per socket" or "per core?"

What does this mean in the long run? Lovell says it will ultimately reduce the cost of server computing.

"Customers are regaining control of their server infrastructures through consolidations, virtualizations and more widespread adoption of system management tools," says Lovell. "This is freeing some of the IT budget and system administrator's bandwidth to tackle additional problems and once again use information technology to grow our customer's business rather than simply running it."

HP has virtualization upgrades on the immediate horizon as well. It plans further deployment of Virtual Machine technology. HP Cox says that the growing adoption of dual-core systems must be matched by advanced management capabilities. He believes its Virtual Machine Management (VMM) software will fulfill this role in the near term.

One big challenge to both virtualization and dual core is software licensing. Should vendors support "per socket" or "per core?" Microsoft recently made a stand by offering a "per socket" model, but the debate is far from over.

"Right now most licenses address the number of physical processors on a machine — not the number of sockets or the number of virtual processors," says Enck. "We see software licensing as the biggest potential barrier to widespread usage of dual-core and virtualization technology."

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