IBM unveils X3 architecture, Hurricane chip set

IBM Tuesday introduced its X3 architecture and the new Hurricane chip set, which the company said is designed to put superior technology on top of the Cranford chip from Intel that vendors will use in new Intel-based servers, according to IBM.

"What we're announcing is the third generation of what we call enterprise X architecture -- and the manifestation of well over $100 million worth of investment in this architecture to bring break-through performance to the scalable part of this market," said Jim Northington, vice president of the high-performance solutions group for the IBM xSeries.

The X3 enables customers to run applications and rapidly process business data to meet critical business needs, he said.

IBM also announced its new IBM eServer xSeries 366, built specifically to leverage X3. It's the first in a planned family of dual-core-capable, Intel-based server offerings, Northington said.

"Our four-way product, which will be our first representation of this architecture, will deliver 38 percent more performance than the prior generation of Xeon-based systems," he said. "And we will be delivering that performance by leveraging an IBM-developed, IBM-manufactured and IBM-exclusive chip set that works in concert with the Intel processor to deliver this level of performance."

In addition, X3 offers investment protection for IBM clients by being dual-core-capable and supporting both 32- and 64-bit applications on the same system, allowing clients to migrate to 64-bit technology as needed, Northington said. IBM's X3 architecture is also designed to easily provide IBM's family of pay-as-you-grow Intel servers with 64-bit capability.

The eServer xSeries 366, built with Intel processors with EM64T memory-addressing capabilities, takes advantage of IBM's chip-set technology expertise and Intel's newest x86 processing technology, the company said.

The IBM Hurricane Node Controller is the heart of X3, providing the x366 with latency reduction that improves response times for customers and allows the server to run with two chips instead of three for better cost and performance, IBM said.

IBM said it will offer the x366 at a competitive price to target the applications segment, including business software such as SAP, Oracle and DB2. The new server will be available in volume within 90 days, and pricing will be announced at that time. IBM's X3 systems is slated to arrive concurrently with new, scalable 64-bit x86 operating system software from major technology partners, including Microsoft, Red Hat and Novell.

"They have boosted the performance by some very clever architecture built around Intel's chip set," said Vernon Turner, an analyst at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC. "The real bottom line here is they've created what you'd call a value-priced platform to give them a performance-priced platform ... (and) they're actually able to do some really mission-critical workloads on that."

Turner said midrange enterprise workloads, such as databases, could potentially be run on this system. "And what does that do for IBM? It means (IBM) ... becomes very relevant in this traditionally volume server market space," Turner said.

He said the IBM move represents a shift in what this platform can traditionally do.

"Traditionally, these boxes just ran file and print, or e-mail or firewall or stuff like that. Now, this box can compete against the midrange, low-end Unix boxes very well," Turner said.

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