IBM: 'System x' servers comply with EU hazards law

IBM said three high-end xSeries systems, which were Friday renamed "System x" servers, are free of the hazardous materials that the European Union is banning from computer and electronics equipment beginning July 1.

Any vendor or user who wants to ship a server into the European Union past the end of June will have to comply with the European directive RoHS, or restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment. The law will bar the import of PCs, servers and other electronic equipment that includes six hazardous materials, including lead, mercury and cadmium. There is an exception for lead in servers, for now at least, because of some concerns about its impact on performance. Lead is commonly used in solder.

"One thing we have achieved with this System x release is the RoHS compliance ... and because we need to do that by June 30 to sell within the European Union, [that] is why we are introducing a turn of the products at this point in time," said Jay Bretzman, director of high-performance systems at IBM.

IBM said it will release RoHS versions of its other products in time to meet the deadline -- even if they haven't yet been rebranded as System x hardware. Systems that don't meet the RoHS requirements but are already in the EU can still be sold after July 1.

The European law will have ramifications for users in the U.S., who will also be getting hardware free of these hazardous materials. "It will become the default," said Krista Botsford, managing partner at 5-Trees, firm that advises vendors on environmental compliance issues. "Most manufacturers do not want to run two separate assembly lines."

The new System x systems don't make the eServer products IBM is selling today obsolete. "It's the same-generation technology," said Bretzman. Other servers in the xSeries line will be renamed when they get chip upgrades on a schedule that will take months, said Bretzman. IBM said all of its eSeries servers will meet the coming EU directive.

The System x change means that the x460 is now the System x3950; the x366 will be the System x3850; and the x260 becomes the System x3800.

Compliance with the EU law is not the main reason IBM is renaming its xSeries line of x86-based servers. With the rebranding, the company said it hopes to put increased emphasis on virtualization.

In an unrelated announcement, IBM also said Friday it has improved a tool for helping enterprises identify problems and improve server utilization. The IBM Consolidation Discovery and Analysis Tool, or CDAT, can be used by IBM and its resellers to look at all of the systems that are part of an enterprise's network to identify resources and virtualization opportunities.

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