IBM's first 64-bit blades to use G5 chip

IBM on Tuesday will unveil a new line of low-power blade servers based on the same 64-bit PowerPC 970 processor that Apple Computer uses in its Power Mac G5 computers.

The new system, called the eServer BladeCenter JS20 will be IBM's first 64-bit blade offering, joining the 32-bit Xeon HS20 systems IBM is already shipping.

The JS20 will come with a lower price tag than its 32-bit Xeon relatives, IBM said. Dual-processor systems will be priced starting at US$2,699, one dollar less than the starting price of the HS20, said Jeff Benck, IBM's vice president of eServer BladeCenter.

"The processor was designed to be a cost-effective, high-performance processor," he said. "I won't say it was developed uniquely for blades, but it's extremely well suited for blades."

IBM is targeting the new blades at the high-performance computing space, and when the systems ship in the first quarter of 2004, they will ship with the Linux operating system that is coming to dominate high-performance computing, Benck said. "Because of the 64-bit capability and the strong floating-point performance we see it as a natural for Linux clusters and the high-performance space," he said.

The PowerPC 970 is already a proven commodity in high-performance computing. In September, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University announced plans to build a $5.2 million 1,100-node G5 cluster for scientific research at the University, that it expects to be the third most powerful supercomputer in the world.

The JS20s will fit into the same 14-blade chassis as the HS20 blades. They will ship with 1.6GHz processors and a standard configuration will have 512M bytes of memory, dual Gigabit Ethernet connections, and an ATA-100 IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics) controller that will support up to two 40G-byte hard drives.

IBM plans to boost the 970's clock speed to 2.4GHz in mid-2004, around the same time that the blades will support the AIX operating system. The company is also planning to add new 10G bit per second (bps) Ethernet connections and 4G bps Fibre Channel interfaces later in 2004, Benck said.

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