November 10, 2003 6:00 PM PST
IBM Itanium servers push higher
- Related Stories
Itanium software upgrade hits bumpNovember 3, 2003
IBM touts own chips over ItaniumJune 30, 2003
IBM's Intel servers to reach new highJune 26, 2003
Unisys targets IBM on server priceMay 4, 2003
Unisys readies multifaceted serverApril 21, 2003
New IBM servers--a blade and a behemothMarch 13, 2003
IBM prepares sequel to Summit serverNovember 13, 2001
The new x455 is a relative of the four-Itanium x450, IBM's first entry into the Itanium market. As expected, IBM said its x455 systems will let customers stack up as many as four 7-inch-thick modules, each with four Itanium 2 processors.
The machine is a significant IBM endorsement of Intel's Itanium processor family, a 64-bit line intended for high-end computers. The Itanium--which can run software designed for Intel's popular Xeon and Pentium processors only with difficulty--is not yet widely used, but its advocates, most notably Hewlett-Packard, believe this is beginning to change.
IBM, however, has shown mixed feelings about Itanium. For example, on the same day it launched its first Itanium server, it trumpeted the speed of servers that use its own Power processor.
"They find it politically expedient to offer Itanium-based servers, because they still have to live in the same world as Intel. It's the path of least resistance for them to offer Itanium, even thought they don't push it," Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff said. But the trend is clear: "IBM is, if anything, getting further and further behind Power."
Others are more consistently enthusiastic about Itanium servers. Unisys has sold a 16-processor Itanium system, the ES7000/400, for more than a year, and HP just announced eight-processor and 16-processor systems.
"All the big (server) vendors are finally acknowledging the trend of the decade is standardization," and the best way to standardize is by using Intel processors, said Mark Feverston, vice president of marketing at Unisys. "The Intel products are going to be the backbone of computing power."
IBM and Unisys have fought pricing battles over Xeon servers, but in the Itanium market, Unisys' bigger competition is HP, Feverston said.
If the brains of the x455 are the Itanium processors, the spinal cord is a chipset IBM developed, the Enterprise X Architecture. EXA, code-named Summit, first arrived in another incarnation to support Intel's Xeon processors in IBM's 16-processor x440 system.
IBM also plans to sell a 32-Xeon x445 as a successor to the x440. However, the company's schedule for that system slipped: Big Blue initially said the machines would ship this year but now says they're due in the first quarter of 2004.