IBM Gets Cool With AMD

Opteron data center

While IBM was the first of the key server vendors to jump on the Opteron bandwagon three years ago, its offerings have largely targeted high-performance computing implementations.

While that's still primarily the case, today's launch consists of three rack-mountable two- and four-way systems and two blades, indicating IBM's intentions of bringing Opteron into broader commercial and business computing data centers.

With New York's Consolidated Edison under fire for not being able to provide ample power to the city, AMD and IBM emphasized the power-saving capabilities engineered into the new line of servers, coupled with advances in cooling by IBM.

"No subject has been on the minds of people who run data centers more than power management," said Bill Zeitler, senior vice president and group executive of IBM's systems and technology group. Zeitler was joined by AMD chairman and CEO Hector Ruiz, who said virtualization will be key to addressing power management.

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Already, servers based on AMD's dual-core 64-bit processors offer substantially better performance per watt than those offered by Intel, according to partners and analysts attending today's launch.

"AMD clearly offers the best power per watt," said William Nemesi, a vice president and xSeries brand executive at Mainline Information Systems, one of IBM's largest partners.

"AMD has a clear advantage over Intel over the issue of power," added Jerry Murphy, an analyst at the Robert Frances Group, a Westport, Conn., IT advisory firm. Murphy said the fact that IBM has launched five Opteron-based servers shows a tighter relationship between the two companies, both of which said they have shared engineering resources. "IBM is firmly saying they are committed to AMD," Murphy said.

The new blades offer the company's first snap-in function to allow upgrades from a one-socket to two-socket system. The BladeCenter LS41 is a two-way blade upgradeable to four ways, targeted at database-type applications and high-performance computing (HPC) clusters; the BladeCenter LS21 a two-way blade.

The rack-mountable servers include the System x3755 for midsize and enterprise customers for scientific computing; the x3655 for business apps, such as database, ERP and analytics; and the x3455 high-performance computing node for scientific and technical computing.

While primarily high end systems, IBM is targeting these to a larger base of customers.

"We've gone from the early innovators to really now the majority of the market," said Susan Whitney, general manager of IBM's xSeries line.

The company also launched two tools targeted at power and cooling. The PowerExecutive is free software that lets customers meter power usage and heat emissions for data-center planning. IBM also previewed Thermal Dynamics, a tool that will help partners and customers pinpoint heat-related issues in the data center.