IBM technology offers high-end Intel push

IBM has touted its Enterprise X Architecture as a ‘game-changing, commodity mould breaking’ technology, and market analysts seem to be upholding this view.

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By  Zoe Moleshead Published  February 3, 2002

IBM technology drive|~||~||~|IBM has touted its Enterprise X Architecture as a ‘game-changing, commodity mould breaking’ technology, and market analysts seem to be upholding this view, suggesting the technology could signal a move towards making high-end Windows/Intel machines commonplace.

The Enterprise X Architecture will provide users with a high-end solution, bridging the gap between 32-bit platforms and the second generation Itanium offering, McKinley.

“[X Architecture] is a step forwards in that we are offering servers that bridge the gap between today’s 32-bit [Intel] Xeon MP processor and the future arrival of the 64-bit Itanium processor,” says Andy Parkinson, sales manager, IBM eServer xSeries, Middle East, Egypt & Pakistan. “As well as the 32-bit chipset that provides Enterprise X Architecture features, IBM is also developing a 64-bit chipset using Enterprise X Architecture that delivers even more features.”

IBM’s X Architecture utilises a host of technologies including copper chips, silicon-on-insulator (SOI) and connection to a remote I/O drawer, which will enable users to take a modular, building approach to their hardware platforms. The architecture also includes technology from IBM’s eLiza initiative, which aims to develop computers capable of self-monitoring and self-healing.

Big Blue has debuted the eServer x360 offering, the first release featuring the X Architecture and further releases are scheduled to follow in the second quarter of this year.

“Early in the second quarter we will announce a server code named ‘vigil’ that allows connection of a remote processor drawer. This means that a customer can buy a 4-way machine and then connect a 4-way building block to make it 8-way,” explains Parkinson. “The customer can scale right up to 16-way if his/her business demands.”

IBM is also planning to simultaneously release partitioning software to enable customers to run software across all 16 processors, or “just across four. [For example] Windows 2000 on 4 processors, Linux on another 4, and so on,” adds Parkinson.

The technology also marks a move towards high-end Intel platforms and according to Gartner Group, the technology could kickstart momentum towards high end Intel offerings.

“IBM’s entry into the market will help validate this whole market, which will actually help make it bigger, and foster confidence beyond 4-way and 8-way Intel servings,” says Andy Butler, vice president & research group director, Gartner Group. “The importance of this [technology] is that we are clearly about to see the emergence of a high end Windows market, typically Windows, but [also] a high-end Intel market,” he adds.

The Enterprise X Architecture should also position IBM in a strong position in the emerging high-end Intel server market, with Butler suggesting the technology delivers an innovation that has been severely lacking in the Intel market.

“[The X Architecture] is going to help position IBM as delivering innovation in the Intel market, if you look at most vendor’s hardware offerings its difficult at a hardware level to find real innovation,” adds Butler.

Big Blue’s architecture will also provide a suitable step up to the second generation of Itanium, McKinley. Intel’s initial IA-64 chip is largely regarded as testing the waters and preparing the market for future Itanium releases. Already many hardware vendors are readying their offerings for the enhanced features of McKinley.

“IBM is coming out, like HP has done with its HP9000, with McKinley- ready products that can be deployed today on IA-32. This will satisfy most people’s needs today, but as the roll out of McKinley starts IBM will be very well positioned to exploit it,” comments Gartner Group’s Butler.

However, Butler adds, “the X Architecture will be extremely important for IBM and in some ways I wish they were putting more energy into it because what they are bringing through has enormous innovation.”

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