IBM touts advanced chip set for Intel servers

IBM is developing a new line of servers that combine microprocessors from Intel with an advanced IBM chip set, turning up the heat on its rivals in the Intel-based server market.

Big Blue plans to use upcoming versions of Intel's Xeon and Itanium processors with a new IBM chip set dubbed "Summit," which makes use of advanced IBM chip features such as copper wiring and silicon-on-insulator technologies. The chip set will help bring "mainframe-like" features to IBM's Intel-based servers, including much faster I/O (input/output), said Bill Zeitler, senior vice president and group executive with IBM's server group.

"This brings to the Intel market the best we have to offer from our mainframe labs and our supercomputer labs," Zeitler said, speaking at IBM's Solutions developer conference here Wednesday morning. He said the company has been working hard to bring technologies used in its mainframe and higher-end servers into lower-end, more affordable servers.

Each Summit chip set can link as many as four Xeon MP chips together, allowing them to share resources like I/O and memory, IBM said in a statement. The chip set will allow IBM to build servers that use up to 16 processors in a single machine, and should enable an increase in overall system performance of up to 20 percent, the company said.

The chip sets will be offered in IBM's xSeries systems, Zeitler said. Pricing for the systems was not disclosed. Those systems compete fiercely with Intel-based servers from the likes of Dell Computer Corp., Compaq Computer Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co.

Intel is in the process of testing, or "validating," the Summit chip set for use with its Xeon processor MP, which is due out in the first half of 2002, confirmed Intel spokesman Otto Pijpker. The company also expects to test the chip set for use with its 64-bit McKinley processor, he said, which is also due sometime in 2002.

By moving straight to McKinley, IBM will overlook the first member of Intel's 64-bit Itanium family, which was launched earlier this year. Some analysts view that chip as a development vehicle for customers, and expect McKinley to be Intel's first 64-bit processor that is deployed widely by enterprise customers.

Zeitler said the new chip set employs design features from processor modules used in the company's much larger mainframe computers. In particular, the chip set will speed the rate at which processors in a single computer can share data while performing computing tasks, IBM said in the statement.

The chip set is also the first that can work with both 32-bit and 64-bit processors from Intel, IBM said. It incorporates the PCI-X bus architecture to improve data transfer rates, and remote I/O capabilities that allow customers to connect secondary systems such as storage boxes at a greater distance from the server, IBM said.

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