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IBM, HP take different tack as Xeon MP moves to 64-bit

By , IDG News Service
March 30, 2005 09:29 AM ET

IDG News Service - IBM and HP are taking two different approaches to building servers based on Intel's latest generation of Xeon MP processors, executives from the companies said Tuesday during the formal launch of the new processors at a press event in San Francisco.

While IBM is readying a follow-up to its xSeries 455 server that will scale to as many as 32 processors, HP on Tuesday revealed that it intended to stop selling its high-end Xeon servers, saying that the high end of the market was being "marginalized" by smaller 2-way and 4-way systems.

Intel's new chips, which come in five configurations, were unveiled as part of a new line of components for multiprocessor servers, which also includes a new chipset, called the E8500.

With the new products, Intel has added a much larger memory cache to Xeon, and it has re-designed the chipset architecture so that the processors can more quickly communicate with other components on the chipset. The E8500 will have a 667 MHz bus speed, compared with 400 MHz for Intel's previous Xeon chipset.

The processors will be at the heart of new servers from a number of vendors, including Dell, IBM and HP.

At the high end, Intel is selling 3.33 GHz and 3.0 GHz processors with 8M bytes of L3 cache, as well as a 2.83 GHz chip with 4M bytes of L3 cache. At the lower end, Intel announced its 3.66 GHz and 3.16 GHz processors, each with 1M bytes of L2 cache.

As vendors adopt the new processors and begin eyeing the next generation of the Xeon family, which will have two processing engines, called cores, on each chip, some changes are ahead for enterprise customers.

"The data center computing space has been reasonably boring for the last five years," said Pat Gelsinger, general manager of Intel's Digital Enterprise group. "I think we've come to a space where this will be getting reasonably exciting," he said.

One change revealed Tuesday is that HP has decided to cease production of its eight-way ProLiant DL740 and DL760 systems when Intel's dual-core Xeon MP processors become available in 2006. With 4-way dual-core systems expected next year, HP no longer sees the need to design its own systems for the relatively low-volume 8-way server market, company executives said this week.

"We're expecting the eight-socket market to be consumed by the four-socket dual-core market," said Colin Lacey, director of platform marketing for industry standard servers at HP. "Such an enormous percentage of the customer requirements are covered by the 4-way market place that the 8-way and beyond marketplace is going to get very marginalized,' he said.

HP announced that it is now shipping the next generation of its 4-way ProLiant 570 and 580 servers with the new processors. The 6U 570 G3 is priced starting at $5,249, while the 4U 580 G3 starts at $6,849.

IBM is taking a different tack. The company has designed its own chipset and server architecture for the systems, called X3, and its servers will be able to run one copy of an operating system on as many as 32 processors, said Jay Brezman, a product marketing manager with IBM.

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