IBM, HP, Dell aim to cut costs with new Xeon servers

The world's top server vendors today updated their product lines, launching new servers to coincide with the release of Intel Corp.'s next-generation Xeon processors.

IBM, Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Inc. said their new low-end and midrange servers will be their fastest to date, topping earlier products that ran on Intel-based chips. The servers will include Intel's latest Xeon 5500 quad-core series chips, which boost overall server performance while drawing much less power.

“This is the largest increase in performance in the history of Xeon product line,” said Kirk Skaugen, vice president and general manager of Intel's server platforms group.

HP and Dell said the chips double server performance while consuming 50% less power than their predecessors. Nehalem's microarchitecture design improves data throughput by cutting bottlenecks that plagued older chips.

The new servers reflect a trend of cutting data center costs while delivering performance gains via faster chips and virtualization, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

“These issues line up pretty well with enterprise customers' overriding concerns about the fragile economy and needing to quantify the economic value of the IT products they plan to buy,” he said.

Chip improvements should allow servers to execute more tasks in virtualized environments, which should consolidate servers in smaller spaces in data centers. That could also help cut additional overhead costs per server, including energy and hardware acquisition costs.

About nine servers with Xeon processors can consolidate into one Nehalem-based quad-core Xeon server, Intel's Skaugen said. HP officials said that about 24 single-core servers could be merged into one quad-core Xeon server.

Manufacturing company Emerson is looking to merge about 140 data centers into a couple of centers by reducing the number of servers, said Stephen Hassell, vice president and CIO, during a Dell press conference last week. He said the company merged 18 old servers into one Nehalem-based Dell PowerEdge server, while reducing the server footprint by up to 50%.

The improved server performance comes partially from a faster pipe that allows chips to communicate faster with other processors, memory and system components. A crucial architectural change involves the integration of a memory controller on a CPU, which gives CPUs a faster communication channel with memory. The data-throughput improvements are bundled under a technology called QuickPath Interconnect, or QPI.

Dell announced new PowerEdge 11g servers last week but revealed specifications today. The company's server lineup now includes five new blade, rack and tower PowerEdge servers based on Intel's Xeon 5500 series processors. The servers include the M610 and M710 blade servers, the R710 and R610 rack servers, and the T610 tower server. The servers are priced starting at $1,599 and are available worldwide starting today.

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