Giga gives thumbs-up to IBM blades

Analyst firm Giga Information Group has given high marks to IBM's upcoming blade servers. The firm says IBM's eServer BladeCenter, codenamed Xcalibur, is slightly ahead of the blades that Dell and Compaq will deliver this year.

IBM's blades, like Dell's and Compaq's blades, are designed for "tier two" of the Internet infrastructure, where midrange database and application servers are deployed. They are unlike Compaq's or RLX's first blades, which used low-power, slower processors and were designed for the first tier of the Internet infrastructure as Web, caching and load-balancing servers.

IBM's blades will edge out Dell and Compaq, Giga says, because they will have Fibre Channel connections to external storage arrays and will use an embedded Fibre Channel switch in the backplane of the chassis.

In addition, IBM's two-processor blades will use the Intel Xeon-DP processor, codenamed Prestonia, which operates at 2.2 GHz and supports as much as 8G bytes of memory. IBM will also make blades that use Intel's Itanium processor, as well as its own POWER processor. Plus, it will introduce TotalStorage and networking blades that integrate with the BladeCenter servers. The networking blades will likely include LAN adapters, switches, routers and hubs. The company has said it will support the next-generation I/O transport InfiniBand in its blades.

IBM's BladeCenter servers will run Linux and Windows and will be twice as dense as current 1U (1.75-inch-high) rack-mount servers. It is not known if IBM will introduce blades that run AIX.

Giga says that IBM will use a 7U enclosure, which will hold 14 blades. The company will likely ship four-processor symmetrical multiprocessing blades in 2003.

IBM says the market for blade servers will reach US$3.7 billion by 2006.

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