IBM Bridges to Madison Chips
June 27, 2003
IBM Monday will unveil a slew of new xSeries servers to hail the arrival of the long-anticipated "Madison" Itanium 2 chips from Intel.
The Armonk, N.Y. giant's prize in the lot is the eServer xSeries 445, a server based on the company's second generation of its vaunted Enterprise X-Architecture (EXA) technology that can scale up to 32 Intel Xeon Processors MP. The other six new xSeries machines today are based on Xeon and Itanium 2 architectures.
For IBM, the news shows full-blown support for the Itanium 2 architecture it had once been reticent to support because, as IBM Product Manager eServer xSeries systems Jay Bretzmann put it, Windows 2003 wasn't ready yet. "There just wasn't enough applications at the time to warrant building systems with Itanium 2."
The x445 features the company's patented XpandOnDemand configuration, which allows customers to increase computing capacity on demand and pay for the capacity as it is activated. Such technology is a cornerstone in the company's e-business on-demand computing push, where customers control how much computing power is used, as opposed to having IT infrastructure sit and depreciate in value during latent periods.
Singapore Polytechnic has already selected the x445 for its new scale up infrastructure to support the E-Cell research project and Virtual High Throughput Screening for possible drug leads against Dengue Virus.
Tailored for Intel chips, EXA is designed to lower a company's total-cost-of-ownership with it "pay-as-you-grow" XpanOnDemand technology and help lower cost of operations with mainframe inspired technologies. IBM's Bretzmann said IBM has come a long way in defining the benefits of EXA to customers since it was introduced in December 2001.
"Our next step was to take the opportunity to reduce latency and increase performance," Bretzmann said. "We don't have to teach people what pay-as-you-grow is anymore. XpandOnDemand allows database customers to buy a server up front and they don't have to worry about painful upgrades."
Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff said the XpandOnDemand features in the new IBM servers center on availability and scalability, in addition to bearing attractive price points.
Meanwhile, IBM rival Hewlett-Packard has seized on Big Blue's hesitation to jump out of the gate and take the lead on Itanium 2 system sales, according to Haff, who said IBM is in an interesting position because its Power chip architecture in the company's pSeries line "certainly competes with Itanium on some levels."
Bretzmann doesn't think HP's lead at this point presents a significant advantage. "That kind of thing matters when you're talking about a mature technology," he said. "This is not quite the case with Itanium 2. There are more applications, and this is more of a mature ecosystem than it was."
As of now, HP, IBM and Unisys are the leading supporters of Itanium 2, although Dell Wednesday threw itself into the mix with a high-performance 64-bit system designed for high-end computing tasks such as movie special effects and genomic research. Unisys has also indicated it is developing a new Itanium 2-based family of servers that go from 4- to 16-way.
Specs for the IBM servers, which run Linux and Windows, are as follows:
IBM also said new Intel Xeon MP processors would be available for its rack and tower systems, including the x360, x205, x225 and x255. Ideally, these systems are geared to provide more modular flexibility for customers. Available now, the x360 and x255 are available immediately, starting at $7,059 and $6,610, respectively. The x205 will be available July 15 for $499 and the x225 will be ready for sale August 1 at $2,039.