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IBM expands its line of AMD-powered blade servers

Shamus McGillicuddy
IBM announced today an expansion of its line of Opteron processor-based servers that promise a 21% increase in performance with no increase in power consumption.

The announcement signals a deepening of IBM's relationship with Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Opteron maker Advanced Micro Devices. IBM first introduced Opteron-based servers in 2003, after 22 years of working exclusively with AMD rival Intel Corp.

"It shows IBM's expectation that AMD is here to stay, that AMD is going to continue to command a significant share of the server processor market over time, and that, therefore, IBM has to have a fairly wide set of AMD-based server offerings," said Gordon Haff, senior analyst at Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata Inc.

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Haff said IBM's expanded relationship with AMD also means more CIOs who buy IBM servers now have a real choice in which chipmaker they use.

"In general, when CIOs have been choosing a server supplier, on some level they've had to also pick a processor vendor," Haff said. "If you go to Dell, you were stuck with what Intel has to offer. If you go to Sun, you were stuck with what AMD had to offer. If you went to IBM, you were more or less stuck with Intel. HP was the only supplier with a broad-based selection of chips. Now IBM is another."

Haff said CIOs who were committed to a particular server vendor in the past didn't have the freedom to choose chipmakers based on which company was making the better processors. With Hewlett-Packard Co., and now with IBM, CIOs "can mix and match and go from one [processor] to another with very little disruption. Certainly less disruption than going from Dell to HP."

IBM said the new servers will be more energy efficient and have higher computing power than IBM servers businesses have had access to in the past.

They will feature the industry's first "snap-in" scalable blade system. Data center professionals will be able to snap in an additional two-socket AMD blade in seconds, doubling the processing capacity.

The joint announcement by AMD and IBM follows yesterday's news that AMD now holds 25.9% of the x86 server processor market, a 16.2% increase over the second quarter of 2006.

IBM also announced a new portfolio of energy-efficient power management and cooling software known as "Cool Blue."

IBM PowerExecutive, software that allows data centers managers to monitor power usage and heat emissions and to cap the amount of power used by a single server or group of servers, will be available for free across IBM's BladeCenter and System x server lines.

A new thermal analyzer, IBM Thermal Diagnostics, will be able to pinpoint and take action on heat issues in the data center. It will periodically scan a data center to detect heat emissions and determine their cause, such as an air-conditioning failure, allowing PowerExecutive to take action to mitigate heat management problems.

The final piece of the Cool Blue portfolio is the IBM Director and Virtualization Engine. It promises to reduce energy usage by up to 40% through server consolidation and systems management virtualization technologies.

The five new Opteron-based servers announced today include:

The BladeCenter LS41, an enterprise-class, scalable two-way to four-way blade, suited for enterprise resource planning systems, data marts, data warehouses, databases and HPC clusters.

The BladeCenter LS21 is an enterprise-class, two-way performance computing blade suited for financial services, high-performance computing and databases.

The System x3755 is a server for midmarket and enterprise-class companies created for scientific computing, such as weather simulations and crash test analysis.

The System x3655 is a business performance server designed for databases, enterprise resource planning, business intelligence, and IPTV and video-on-demand applications.

The System x3455 is designed for scientific and technical computing, databases and Linux clusters.

IBM will announce pricing and availability for the new servers this fall.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Writer


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