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January 6, 2004

IBM launches two four-way servers

IBM Corp today will roll out its much-anticipated four-way blade server for its BladeCenter chassis and is also expected to debut a revamped four-way rack-mounted server.

By CBR Staff Writer

Two-way and four-way servers dominate among midrange and enterprise customers when it comes to X86 platforms (smaller businesses are buying uniprocessor machines in droves), and Big Blue wants to keep the heat on the competition in this lucrative section of the server market.

The new HS40 blade server is based on the Gallatin Xeon MP processors, and according to Jay Bretzmann, manager of eServer xSeries products at IBM, the company will be supporting Xeon MPs running at 2GHz, 2.5GHz, and 2.8GHz on the new blade servers, which plug directly into the current 7U BladeCenter chassis. The HS40 blade has eight memory slots, which supports up to 16GB of main memory. This might be a little skinny for some database applications. But because of thermal issues, there is no way that IBM can pack four Gallatin processors and a lot of memory into such a small space. In fact, the HS40 blade takes up twice as much horizontal space in the BladeCenter chassis as the HS20. A BladeCenter can house 14 two-way HS20 blades or seven four-way blades.

This is considerably denser that the chassis used with the ProLiant BL40p four-way blade server from Hewlett-Packard Co, which has a 6U form factor that can house two four-way vertical blades side by side. Right now, IBM can clearly claim superior density on four-way blades, and that has got to be making HP’s engineers stay awake at night planning their counterassault on IBM.

The HS40 blades will run either 32-bit Windows or 32-bit Linux, and IBM will, according to Bretzmann, entertain the idea of supporting other platforms if customers want them. The HS40 blades are expected to be generally available on February 13; IBM will set prices for them a few weeks ahead of this. The HS40 blades can be used side-by-side in the same chassis with the HS20 Xeon DP blades and the future JS20 PowerPC 970-based two-way blade servers that IBM announced in November 2003 and will start shipping in March 2004 running Linux. (AIX support on the JS20 blades won’t be ready until the third quarter of 2004.)

IBM also announced a kicker for the xSeries 360, the first server on the market to support the Xeon MPs in a four-way configuration. The kicker is called the xSeries 365, and it comes in a 3U form factor, just like the xSeries 360. However, the xSeries 365 is based on the Summit-II chipset from IBM, a chipset that IBM has created for its 8-way and 16-way Xeon MP and Itanium 2 servers. Like the HS40, the xSeries 365 supports Gallatin processors running at 2GHz, 2.5GHz, and 2.8GHz. It comes with either 1GB or 2GB of main PC2100 DDR chipkill memory standard, expandable to 32GB, and can support up to six Ultra320 SCSI disk drives for a total capacity of 876GB. IBM is supporting Windows, Linux, NetWare, and SCO Unix on the xSeries 365, which is available immediately.

A base xSeries 365 with a single 2GHz Gallatin with 1MB of L3 cache memory, 2GB of main memory, and no disk drives costs $7,039. The same machine with a single 2.5GHz Gallatin processor with 1MB of L3 cache costs $10,899, and with a 2.8GHz Gallatin with 2MB of L3 cache the price rises to $15,599. A four-way xSeries 365 using the 2.8GHz Gallatins, 8GB of main memory, a ServerRAID disk controller, and six 36GB/15K RPM Ultra320 SCSI disks costs $40,912 without any operating system. This is a decently powerful midrange machine, and while that seems like a lot of dough, it would have cost many hundreds of thousands of dollars only a few years ago to buy this kind of performance and capacity.

This article is based on material originally produced by ComputerWire.

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