IBM Embraces Itanium 2 With xSeries 455 Server

By Dan Muse (Send Email)
Posted Nov 10, 2003


Looking to fill out its server line with an offering aimed at large enterprises running transaction-intensive applications, IBM today announced the eServer xSeries 455, which is based on Intel's 64-bit Itanium 2 processor.

Designed, according to Big Blue, with scalability in mind, the xSeries 455 uses IBM's Enterprise X-Architecture (EXA), which takes advantage of what the company describes as "mainframe-inspired technologies." In a move designed to address the market for enterprises running transaction-intensive applications, IBM today announced, some say reluctantly, the eServer xSeries 455.

A followup to the Xeon processor-MP based x440 series servers, the xSeries 455 is a 4U, 4-way Itanium 2-based system that scales up to 16-way in 4-way blocks, Jay Bretzmann, IBM's manager of eServer products, told ServerWatch. "It's really optimized for large databases and ERP — commercial applications, the SAPs and SQL Servers, that take advantage of 64-bit."

The xSeries 455 is a product that IBM is bringing to market carefully, perhaps fearful of encroaching on its pSeries servers' turf. Gordon Haff, senior analyst at Illuminata, described today's announcemnet as more tactical than strategic. "IBM has not been really big on Itanium. In fact, they have been fairly dismissive of it. I think they decided to go ahead with it even if it's not something they are going to promote."

While Big Blue may not be running to the 64-bit Intel processor market, "it's a segment they decided not to walk away from," Haff said, referring to IBM's need to respond to offerings from other vendors when it comes to targeting enterprises running large Windows databases. "Unisys is playing there and HP will be playing there."

By offering a 64-bit-processor-based server, IBM also is able to address performances demands spurred by Windows Server 2003. Flexing its Itanium 2 muscles, the x455 overcomes memory-addressing limitation of 32-bit systems. Using Intel's PAE (Physical Address Extension) technology, systems based on the Xeon MP are able to expand the number of bits that can be used to address physical memory from 32 bits to 36 bits, allowing support for up to 64 GB of physical memory for applications running on most 32-bit platforms.

That 64 GB threshold is something Itanium 2-based systems exceed without breaking a silicon sweat. "You can go a thousand times beyond that [64 GB limit]," Illuminata's Haff said. "It will support as much memory as anyone would want for a long, long time."

In releasing the x455, IBM is careful to position it at transaction-intensive enterprise applications and not necessarily HPC (high performance computing) applications, where it prefers to pitch its Power processor-based pSeries systems, Haff said.

Despite that position, the xSeries 455, which run both Windows and Linux operating systems, may overlap a bit with IBM Power processor servers, IBM's Bretzmann admits. "People tend to use Intel servers any way they want. Despite our best efforts, they'll use them for whatever they want. But we see it primarily for larger companies running bigger databases."

With pricing starting at $21,999, he said, it will be lower priced than pSeries servers.

According to IBM, the eServer xSeries 455 will be available on Dec. 9.

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