Vendors pin market share hopes on Intel quad-core processors

IBM and Hewlett-Packard have become the first vendors to release quad-core servers, which the companies says offer up to four times the performance of systems in their lineups from a year ago.

“These systems have dramatic new performance capabilities,” said Dean Parker, marketing manager for IBM System x servers, “and are enabled for new workload growth, especially for a more broad adoption of virtualization.”

“This announcement provides more opportunity for the channel to add value,” he added, “given the massive increase in performance in these mainstream servers, which is three to four times that were in these servers 12 months ago. Customers need more guidance from the channel to select appropriate systems depending on workload requirements or the complexity of the IT shop.”

He made the remarks as the company announced partners can now take orders for the x-Series systems – two racks, two towers and one blade – all powered by Intel’s Xeon 5300 CPUs. Volume shipping will start next month or January, depending on the system.

They include

–the x3650, a 2U rack server the company that can take two CPUS. IBM says is suitable for medium and large datacenters. It starts at $2,419 (all prices US);

–the x3550, a 1U, two CPU socket rack server starting at $2,369;

–the x3500, a two CPU socket tower server starting at $2,189;

–the x3400, targeted at medium-sized businesses, which starts at $1,839;

–and the BladeCentre HS21, which starts at $2,159.

All come with IBM Director 5.2, which includes virtualization management controls. However, virtualization software itself is extra.</P.

Other manufacturers that are releasing products on the Xeon 5300 CPU include Hewlett-Packard, Fujitsu-Siemens and Hewlett-Packard.

HP said its quad-core offerings will include the HP ProLiant ML150 G3, ML350 G5 and ML370 G5 tower-based servers, the DL140 G3, DL360 G5 and DL380 G5 rack-mount servers and the BL20p G4, BL460c and BL480c server blades.

Workstations available with Xeon 5300 processors will include the HP xw6400 and xw8400. The Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 processors will be offered on the HP xw4400 Workstation.

This week Intel announced four Xeon quad core CPUs with clock speeds ranging from 1.6GHz to 2.66GHz, with front side bus speeds ranging from 1,066MHz to 1,333MHz.

It promised that in the first quarter of next year it will launch two more quad-core Xeons, a low-watt version for ultra-dense deployments with a thermal design power of 50 watts, and a processor designed for single-socket workstations and servers.

Intel has a lead in the race to produce multiple core processors, with AMD not scheduled to release its Opteron versions until next year. However, AMD argues that the Xeon 5300 chips are merely two Intel dual-core CPUs in one package. By contrast it says its quad-core chips will have four CPUs on one piece of silicon.

“Intel clearly hopes that a strong introduction of quad-core processors in 2007 will enable it to recover server and desktop market share from AMD and drive upgrades,” Gartner noted in a recent research report. “Intel’s new (dual-core) products have taken the performance lead from AMD, but Gartner believes AMD-based products will remain compelling for four-way servers. Moreover, Intel faces a market where growth is coming largely from price reductions, not from performance boosts. The battle for market share will therefore also be fought on the basis of price.”

It advises enterprises to re-evaluate their purchasing plans to take into account the “substantial performance improvements” of quad-core processors over existing systems. However, the research company also cautioned organizations to examine their software licensing agreements closely to ensure quad-core systems are price-competitive, and confirm that the applications being used will benefit from quad-core architecture.

Asked if organizations have applications that will make it worthwhile for them to go quad, Parker said most commercial server workloads are multithreaded and can take advantage of multiple-core CPUs.

He said IBM’s initial offerings are mainly aimed at large datacenters and medium-sized organizations.

With the laboratory performance the company has witnessed, “we see broad adoption of these quad-core systems very rapidly in 2007,” he said.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer. Former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, Howard has written for several of ITWC's sister publications, including Before arriving at ITWC he served as a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times.

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