Nehalem Launch Triggers Outpouring Of Server Offerings

The release of Intel's Nehalem Xeon 5500 processor Monday triggered the corresponding release of one of the largest number of new servers ever to be introduced on the same day.

Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Dell, Lenovo, Supermicro and several custom systems builders each unveiled multiple servers in blade, rack-mount and tower versions in a bid to capitalize on what Intel is calling the biggest server launch ever.

The server vendors agreed that the launch is a major event, and said that they are releasing to market more new server models than they have ever done at one time.

However, the launch comes during troubled times in the server market.

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Analyst firm IDC late last month said worldwide server shipments in the fourth quarter of 2008 fell 12 percent compared with the same period one year ago, leading to a worldwide fall in server revenue of 14 percent.

Customers are slower in their acquisition of servers under the current economic situation, and require a clear ROI for their investments, said Arlin Sorensen, president of Heartland Technology Solutions, a Harlan, Iowa-based Hewlett-Packard solution provider.

The new Nehalem servers offer that ROI, Sorenson said.

"More processing power, less power and HVAC requirements, scalability using virtualization -- our customers will get more bang for their buck than ever," he said. "Plus we will be able to service them at an even higher level with the new tools that have been added to the mix. It is a win for the customer and HTS as their partner because we can address their pain points while giving them more server and support! We are excited about this release and how it will help us re-engage with our customers to discuss their pain with an even better story as a solution."

Leigh Carpenter, a solutions architect at Nth Generation, a San Diego-based solution provider and HP partner, said that the new Nehalem servers she has tested offer incredible performance for server virtualization because of their huge memory capacities.

She also said that customers will find the new servers a good way to actually save money.

"Companies with less money to spend on servers can look to the new HP models," she said. With two 10-Gbit Ethernet cards on each blade, they don't need as many switches in their blade chassis."

Next: Tier-one And Custom Server Vendors Roll Out The Servers

HP unveiled 10 new Nehalem-based blade, rack-mount and tower servers with more than 1,000 individual SKUs in its ProLiant G6 family, a new line of Nehalem-based workstations, plus related software and services, said John Gromala, director of product marketing for the company's Industry Standard Server division.

"It's the biggest launch in ProLiant history," Gromala said.

Supermicro on Monday unveiled and started shipping more than 50 different Nehalem-based server motherboards and more than 60 server chassis, enabling hundreds of potential server and workstation configurations, said Charles Liang, CEO.

IBM unveiled two new rack-mount servers and a new blade server, as well as a new memory-dense 1U rack-mount server for high-performance users. Lenovo launched a pair of Nehalem-based rack-mount servers. Dell launched one tower, two rack-mount and two blade servers, all based on the new processor.

Custom systems builders also unveiled their Nehalem-based offerings.

Equus Computer Systems, Minneapolis, unveiled three Nehalem custom-built servers based on Intel's "Tylersburg" server platform and one based on the Supermicro platform, said Joe Toste, vice president of marketing.

Amax Information Technologies, Fremont, Calif., also launched several Nehalem-based, custom-built servers. James Huang, product marketing manager for Amax, said his company also plans to shortly build storage appliances based on its Nehalem line featuring a choice of Microsoft Storage Server or Open-E software.

All the vendors tout their new servers' power-saving capabilities with such features as new 90-plus-percent efficient power supplies, as well as on-board sensors that allow the control of power usage by components such as fans.

The vendors also said their new servers, because of the processing power of the Xeon 5500 processors, are also great platforms on which to virtualize server infrastructures and cut the space required by customer data centers.

However, not all is running as smoothly as expected with the Nehalem launch.

One system builder, who requested anonymity, said that Intel has done a poor job of getting its chassis platforms ready for the launch. Server chassis for Nehalem-based servers differ from other chassis because of the new requirements for airflow to cool the systems down.

As a result, the system builder said, the tier-one vendors are ready for market, but systems builders will have to wait to get up to speed.

"It's the channel that's suffering," the system builder said. "One case maker that works with Intel said its rack-mount case won't be ready until the second quarter of this year."