New IBM server gives users room to grow

IBM Corp. spiced up its Intel Corp.-based line of servers Wednesday with a product that should appeal to users looking for a cost-effective way to build up to a 16-processor system.

The x440 will ship to U.S. customers in April and can hold up to four of Intel's Xeon chips designed for larger servers. As many as four of the x440s can be linked via Armonk, New York-based IBM's cabling technology to form a 16-processor system able to run one image of an operating system. System administrators can also carve up each x440 with four different images of the operating system, said Tom Bradicich, chief technology officer of IBM's xSeries servers.

With the speedy new Xeon chips from Intel and IBM's technology for hooking servers together, users should be able to create a powerful system for a low cost, said one analyst.

"What is interesting about IBM's design is that it really does let you build out those large systems with a fairly commodity-like pricing structure," said Gordon Haff, an analyst at Nashua, New Hampshire-based Illuminata Inc.

A 16-processor x440 with 16G bytes of memory will cost just more than US$100,000, Bradicich said. System administrators can pick from 1.4GHz to 1.6GHz Xeons and Windows NT/2000, Red Hat Inc., SuSE Linux AG and NetWare 6.0 operating systems. The servers will be available worldwide in early May.

The x440 also comes with 32M bytes of Level 4 cache with a four-processor server and that has appealed to analysts and users alike.

"IBM has put a large and very fast cache in place," Haff said. "The access to memory is much faster when compared to local memories in big systems."

A database designer for Honeywell International Inc. agreed that the Level 4 cache makes a difference, as she has seen a speed boost in early benchmarks.

"I like it because under pressure you are able to do more with less," Joanna Smith, data analyst at Honeywell.

When compared to an older IBM four-way server, the x440 ran anywhere from 25 to 50 percent faster when churning through information in a database, she said. This should help the company deal with its trend toward more and larger databases.

The servers also include some of IBM's eLiza technology for automating system repair functions and detecting possible hardware failures. Users can add or replace memory on the fly with x440 and perform a wide range of diagnostic functions while the server is still in use.

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