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IBM gives Windows users a new hardware option

The xSeries 366 server, which features a new IBM-developed chip set architecture, could be a good fit for companies moving to 64-bit Windows, industry observers say.

Administrators looking for a higher-powered server to run their Windows applications have a new option

… this is a fairly significant enhancement of the chipset that underlies the architecture, and the enhancements are pretty much about performance.

Gordon Haff, analyst,

Illuminata Inc.

in IBM's latest offering.

The company on Tuesday announced the planned release of its eServer xSeries 366 product using Intel Corp.'s 64-bit Xeon processor. The server will incorporate a new chipset, dubbed "Hurricane," that integrates the processor and memory controller to reduce memory latency and improve system performance. The chipset is based on IBM's new X3 architecture, which was "inspired" by mainframe technology.

The new server line, which competes with those made by Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co., will run 32- and 64-bit applications simultaneously, IBM said.

Where X3 fits in a Windows environment

"This could be particularly a good match for a 64-bit Windows for x86," said Gordon Haff, principal analyst with Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata Inc. "Certainly, those high-end systems are somewhat limited by memory today. … Basically, this is a fairly

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significant enhancement of the chipset that underlies the architecture, and the enhancements are pretty much about performance."

And that's where IBM is hoping to find its place in the Windows world with this product line.

"We think the best market for this right now is what we call the application-serving market or mid-tier application," said Jay Bretzmann, director of eServer products at IBM. "It's running all of the business logic -- the stuff that takes a business and makes it an e-business. This is also a very powerful database server. For [a] medium-sized or small business, this is as big a database server as they might need to buy. It is a great application server for an enterprise, but a lot of large companies need a bigger server for the database tier."

A continuing role for virtualization

The company said the xSeries of servers will have enhanced virtualization capabilities through IBM's Virtualization Engine technology.

"Virtualization is absolutely a very important part of a server such as this," Haff said. "Rather than running one single, big application, a server like this might be used to run a lot of smaller instances of smaller applications."

In a written assessment of the X3 architecture, Framingham, Mass.-based International Data Corp. said IBM is covering a lot of ground with Tuesday's announcement.

"IBM has made its strategy very clear," said Vernon Turner, group vice president and general manager for enterprise computing at IDC. "It has set the tone for a price/performance war that not only tackles the existing volume server market but reaches into the traditional 64-bit volume server market."

The IBM eServer xSeries 366 server is scheduled to be available mid-year. Pricing will start at $6,999. The release is planned to coincide with those of 64-bit x86 operating system software products from Microsoft, Red Hat Inc. and Novell Inc.

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