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IBM to use AMD chips in more x86 servers

IBM on Tuesday announced that it would incorporate AMD Opteron processors into a wider berth of its x86 servers, saying its corporate customers wanted more options. Real estate company Move plans to take advantage.

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NEW YORK -- Move Inc., facing sprawl and power issues in its California data center, decided to move its operations and buy Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD)-based IBM blade servers to save space and power.

Now with the announcement of more AMD-based x86 servers by IBM yesterday, the national real estate company -- which runs sites like, and -- plans to take advantage. Vincent Stephens, the Westlake Village, Calif., company's vice president of technology operations, said he'll be looking to upgrade from the current IBM LS20 blade servers to the new LS21 blades expected out this fall.

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Its data center runs VMware "across the board," and Stephens said the newer blades could help them run up to seven virtual machines on one LS21 blade, as opposed to the current 5-to-1 ratio with the LS20s. Besides, with dual-core processors in the blades, Move might be able to save on licensing costs.

The company decided about a year ago to move into an 8,000 sq. ft., former GE Co. data center in Phoenix, stripping it down and rebuilding it to a Tier-3 facility. Its older data center in, Thousand Oaks, Calif., was only a couple miles from company headquarters, but Move found that going to Phoenix could save money.

By using IBM's blade servers, Stephens said it is using up about 40% of the space and reducing power by using AMD-based blades that run cooler than the Intel Corp.-based servers it had in Thousand Oaks.

"AMD was definitely outperforming (Intel) and had a cooler chip," Stephens said in an interview with before the main presentation in New York yesterday. "The BladeCenter was using a smaller footprint and was easier to operate --compared to other blade offerings. It came complete as a solution, whereas others came in pieces. It seemed like a better enterprise solution for the company."

IBM announced Tuesday that it would include AMD Opteron chips in a wider variety of its x86 servers as a response to customer demand for more options.

IBM, one of the first companies to partner with AMD when it was barely a blip on the processor radar screen, has used Opteron processors mainly in its high-performance computing machines, some of which have made appearances on the top 500 list of supercomputers. But while other major vendors have expanded their menu of servers using AMD chips to accommodate general business, IBM has mostly sat on the sidelines, still focused on high-performance computing.

That changed yesterday, as IBM introduced five servers -- two of them blades -- that will use the next-generation Opteron processor, which is expected out this fall. Pricing is not yet available. IBM made the announcement with a presentation yesterday morning at the St. Regis Hotel in midtown Manhattan.

New rack servers include the x3455, x3655 and x3755, while the BladeCenter offerings include the two-way LS21 and the two-way LS41 that is scalable to four ways with a "snap-in" feature that allows data center managers to clip a second two-socket blade onto the first in a few seconds.

IBM also introduced technologies around energy efficiency in the data center that will be included in the latest server offerings and in the data center in general. Dubbed "Cool Blue," the technology includes software to manage power utilization on System x and BladeCenter servers, the ability to track thermal issues in a data center on a map and a way to engineer the paths of cool air depending on where hot spots in the data center are.

Joe Clabby, president of Clabby Analytics, pointed to another announcement IBM made yesterday. The function called Xcelerated Memory Technology claims to allow access to memory 15% faster than any other vendor on the market.

"What I'm seeing is IBM doing a really good job of exploiting the memory -- maybe the best in the industry," Clabby said.

He added that the news is obviously good for AMD, which continues to gain market share on lead chipmaker Intel.

"The bottom line is more feet on the street, more people pushing your solution," Clabby said.

A spokesman for Intel could not be reached for comment.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Mark Fontecchio, News Writer

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