Intel Updates Motherboard Roadmap With Sandy Bridge, Unveils New Software, Services

Intel expanding its reach into the system builder market with one of its largest-ever motherboard releases, along with the introduction of new software and services it hopes will help its system builder partners add value to their servers and PCs.

Intel unveiled the new expanded product lines during its Intel Solutions Summit, held this week in Las Vegas.

Top of the list for Intel is a new motherboard family, the Intel Server Board S1200BT, which supports Intel's upcoming Xeon E3-1200 processor family, said Lisa Graff, vice president and general manager for Intel's Enterprise Platforms and Servers Division (EPSD).

The S1200BT marks the first instance of Intel's new Sandy Bridge processor architecture for servers, Graff said. The Xeon E3-1200 processor is the first processor based on Sandy Bridge.

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The new motherboard is expected to be available in a one-socket version during the second quarter at the same time the Xeon E3-1200 processor ships, Graff said. A two-socket version for the Sandy Bridge EP expected to be available during the fourth quarter, and a four-socket version to come some time after that, she said.

The S1200BT includes Micro-ATX and ATX options, as well as BMC (baseboard management controller) and non-BMC options, for a total of six new SKUs. Intel is also introducing new pedestal and rack chasses options for the SB1200BT.

Intel's Xeon E3-1200 processor includes integrated PCI technology as well as increased raw performance and performance per Watt over its earlier Xeon 5500 Nehalem and Xeon 5600 Westmere processors, Graff said.

Intel is also refreshing its entire chassis line with the introduction of 30 new chassis with a new look and feel and common accessories, Graff said.

Intel also gave a look into its upcoming motherboard roadmaps.

Soon to come are several new four-socket motherboards, as well as new half-width motherboards. These "long and skinny" motherboards come in 2-socket versions to go with the 1-socket version previously introduced, Graff said. "This is the first time we are targeting the HPC (high-performance computing) market with a full family of 2-socket models," she said.

Also on deck are variations of Intel's motherboard line which Intel calls Max-IO and Max-Memory. Max-IO versions are for customers with I/O- intensive applications, while Max-Memory versions are for memory-intensive applications, Graff said. "As the market trends towards hyper-segregation, customers are more and more asking for these types of products," she said.

Next: More Sandy Bridge, Plus New Intel Software And Services

Intel is also preparing to launch new Sandy Bridge EP-based motherboards for its Intel Modular Server product, which combines server and a SAN in a single enclosure. First introduced in 2007, the Intel Modular Server features room for up to six motherboards. Graff said customers can mix and match older motherboards and new Sandy Bridge EP-based versions in the same enclosure.

On the software side, Intel in March plans to make nine different versions of the Symantec Backup Express 2010 available with its motherboards, Graff said. The company first discussed the possibility of such bundles in November.

Intel has been bundling VMware's vSphere 4.1 with motherboards for about a year, she said.

Also new is the Intel Multi-Server Manager software, which Graff said lets customers manage up to 100 servers from a single management console. Prior to this, Intel's server management software could only handle one server at a time, she said.

Finally, Intel is introducing the Intel Business Continuity Suite, which combines hardware management, integrated RAID, virtualization, backups, disaster recovery, and continuous data protection into a single management console. It is slated to be released in the second half of the year, Graff said.

"For SMBs, this makes management much easier to do, and much more graphical," she said. "Today, we offer this in a limited way with the Intel Modular Server. But this is the first time we will tie all these capabilities together across our entire product line."

On the services side, Intel introduced its first server component extended warranty, which gives customers the option of extending the standard three-year warranty for its servers, motherboards, and components by an extra two years, Graff said.

"Many times, if a customer can't provide a five-year warranty, they can't win a bid," she said. "Now our channel partners can offer it. This is a great opportunity for them to get additional revenue."

Intel is also contracting with a third-party services firm to offer the kind of break-fix services they can typically only get with larger name-brand vendors. The service, expected to start in June, will offer both over-the-phone and on-site help on Intel Xeon 5600 and later servers, Graff said. She declined to name the third-party partner pending finalization of its contract with Intel.