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Hardware Today: Midyear Server Report Card

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


The server hardware business has been good as of late. According to IDC, the $12.1 billion in revenue generated in the first quarter 0f 2005 represents the eighth consecutive period of revenue growth. And that growth is expected to continue, driven by advances in 64-bit, dual-core, and virtualization technologies.

The server market as a whole is thriving, with 64-bit, dual core, and virtualization earning A's.

"AMD has had 64-bit addressing extensions to x86 processors on the market for a while, Intel recently introduced it, but most important, Microsoft has finally released Windows Server x64 to support it," said Gartner analyst John Enck. "My clients are looking for where this technology may be helpful — and where it might be an alternative to other 64-bit technology, such as Itanium and SPARC."

IBM is one vendor quick to embrace various flavors of 64-bit computing. According to Jay Bretzmann, director of IBM eServer products, the x86 instruction set architecture will soon be the largest 64-bit server platform in the industry from a software development standpoint.

"The new 64-bit Xeon and Xeon MP servers are finding acceptance for running enterprise business applications in addition to traditional 32-bit roles for file and print sharing, e-mail, and Web serving workloads," says Bretzmann.

"The new 64-bit Xeon and Xeon MP servers are finding acceptance for running enterprise business applications in addition to traditional 32-bit roles for file and print sharing, e-mail, and Web serving workloads." — Jay Bretzmann, director of IBM eServer products
IBM also introduced the eServer X3 architecture, the culmination of a three year, $100 million development effort to bring mainframe-capabilities to 64-bit Intel Xeon processor-based xSeries servers. He reports that X3 provides up to 46 percent higher 4-way performance than the previous generation of Intel Xeon processor-based systems. It also enables businesses to simultaneously run 32- and 64-bit applications and more rapidly process large amounts of data.

Not surprisingly, other major server vendors have made their own 64-bit announcements. HP has been busy standardizing its many server lines on Intel processors. Itanium-2 processors, for example, have been added for the Integrity/OpenVMS and HP NonStop servers for the first time.

"With the addition of Itanium, price/performance has jumped up 2.5 times over previous NonStop offerings," says Brian Cox, director of worldwide server marketing, HP Business Critical Servers.

Cox is happy with the market response to HP 64-bit Integrity line. HP Integrity Server Solution sales, he says, exceeded $1 billion in 2004. The Itanium/NonStop combination will be released in July. It will be the first commercial server to scale to up to 4,080 Itanium 2 processors.

On the ProLiant side, HP has introduced the HP ProLiant DL580 G3 and the HP ProLiant ML570 G3, both of which include the 64-bit Intel EM64T Xeon multiprocessor.

Sun, meanwhile, has added AMD 64-bit offerings quite successfully. IDC reports that in first-quarter 2005 Sun shipped more servers with the AMD Opteron processor for Linux and Unix than any other vendor. This is an encouraging sign that Sun's recent strategic shifts are starting to bear fruit. Not so encouraging are the cuts to its engineering and sales staff made last week.

Sun introduced the Sun Fire V20z server and Sun Fire V40z server with the 2.6 GHz AMD Opteron processor; both come with the Solaris 10 Operating System pre-installed.

"Sun will pursue continued growth and market share server gains for both Sun and AMD at the expense of less-competitive Intel Xeon EM64T-based servers," says Graham Lovell, senior director of x86 servers in Sun's Network Systems Group. "Sun will also pursue increased adoption of Solaris 10 in x64 based servers for enterprise deployment."

He believes end users are increasingly adopting 64-bit servers to replace their aging 32-bit models. He has also observed significant migration to the 64-bit x86 platform at the expense of 32-bit Xeon coupled with consolidation of multiple small servers onto at least one large 64-bit server.

>> Virtualization and dual core

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