New IBM Server Targets HP

VARs said the upcoming eServer xSeries 366, which features the X3 architecture and Hurricane chipset designed for Intel's next-generation 64-bit Cranford processors, provides 38 percent higher performance than previous systems.

Intel, Santa Clara, Calif., plans to roll out the new processors in the next 90 days, and IBM will release the 366, its first four-way server leveraging X3 and Cranford once that technology is available, said Jay Bretzmann, director of eServer products at IBM, Armonk, N.Y.

Solution providers said the performance improvements IBM is promising with the new architecture should give the vendor an edge in the four-way Intel-based server space.

Bob Mickus, Intel product manager at solution provider Paragon Solutions Group, Denver, said IBM has traditionally played second fiddle to HP in this part of the market, which he called the server sweet spot.

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But that could change with IBM's new generation of hardware. "We truly feel this will bring some differentiation," Mickus said. "The four-way space has been dominated more by HP."

Bretzmann declined to disclose 366 pricing, but said it would be less than IBM's previous offering, the 365, which runs on Intel's Gallatin processor. This will make the four-way 366 just as affordable for customers as two IBM two-way servers, he said.

Currently, it is more cost-effective for customers to purchase a pair of two-way servers to do the work of one four-way.

Bill Nemesi, brand executive for xSeries at Mainline Information Systems, a Cary, N.C.-based VAR, said the pricing was competitive. "You have to pay a premium of more than two times a two-way to get a four-way," he said. With the 366, "a four-way is more in line with the price of two two-ways."

IBM also will have first-mover advantage over competitors, Nemesi said. "IBM will be ahead of everyone else," he said. "Now IBM can move into the four-way space with the same competitive advantage [it] had in the two-way."

While IBM leads the eight-way Intel server market, it remains second behind HP in the four-way space, according to research firm IDC.

IBM recently passed Dell in the four-way space, according to IDC's most recent market-share numbers, and now has set HP in its sights, Bretzmann said. "My goal is to drive this architecture into the four-way space and win the No. 1 share position," he said.

In rolling out its own chipset technology, IBM is leveraging a resource that its top rivals in the Intel server market lack: processor R&D.

Dell, Round Rock, Texas, does not have a separate microprocessor unit, and Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP last year sold off much of its Intel chip research resources to Intel.

By contrast, IBM's microprocessor unit last year upgraded its Power5 chip and has been working as part of a team with Sony and Toshiba on a new, consumer-focused processor called The Cell.