IBM to use Intel's Foster chip in servers

IBM Corp. here on Tuesday gave Comdex goers a look at some of its advanced processor cooling, I/O and server chipset technology by pre-announcing a water-cooled xSeries server set to launch next month.

In doing so, Big Blue provided a glimpse of how it intends to package heat-intensive 64-bit Intel McKinley processors when they begin to arrive next year. IBM's xSeries servers are the company's Intel Corp.-based servers.

The yet-to-be-named xSeries server is IBM's first application of its Enterprise X Technology, formerly code-named Summit, said Brendan Paget, the world wide marketing manager for xSeries servers at IBM, based in Triangle Park, N.C.

Only 3 rack units high (approx. 5.25 inches), the server is a four-way system running Intel's Foster architecture-based Xeon server chips, Paget said.

For a chassis that small, IBM is using six fans and water-cooled heat synchs that rise from each Xeon chip. The water is in a vacuum container that is aerated by the heat synch fins, cooling the chips.

Intel's 32-bit Xeon processors create a significant amount of heat during normal operation. Intel's upcoming 64-bit McKinley chips will create even more heat, and a vendorwide engineering effort is under way to figure out the best way to house McKinley chips while keeping them cool.

IBM's approach to cooling McKinley chips will likely be water-based, as demonstrated by the new 4-way xSeries server, said Paget.

Coupling the Xeon chips in the new xSeries server is IBM's XA-32 chip set, Paget said. IBM invested US$20 million in the development of the XA-32 chip set, which uses standard DDR-SDRAM memory.

"There will also be an XA-64 chipset," said Paget, hinting that with the XA-32 chipset, the ground work had already been laid by IBM to deliver a chipset that supports McKinley when it arrives from Intel sometime next year.

The new four-way xSeries server shown at Comdex also offered expandable I/O thorough the use of an I/O expansion enclosure. The expansion enclosure can quickly double the amount of I/O available to the new xSeries server and is connected by a cord based on Infiniband technology, Paget said.

Ideally, users will ultimately be able to use the expansion enclosure outlet and plug the new xSeries server directly in to an Infiniband switched fabric network, Paget said. High-speed Infiniband networking products are expected to begin arriving in mass in late 2002.

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