IBM shows new Intel server, helps solve cable chaos

IBM Corp. announced an addition Friday to the low end of its Intel Corp.-based server line, along with a new cabling technology designed to help users who manage large numbers of rack-mounted servers.

The x345 server will start shipping at the end of July as either a one- or two-processor system running on 2.0GHz, 2.2GHz or 2.4GHz Intel Xeon processors. The rack-mount system will fit six hot-swappable hard drive bays and five PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) slots into a 2U (3.5 inches) space. This marks a significant shrink over the previous 3U (5.25 inches) x342, which runs on Pentium III chips, said Jeff Benck, director of xSeries marketing at IBM.

"IBM is very focused on this shift going with rack-dense servers," Benck said. "We see more rack-dense servers being sold in 2003 than towers."

The new server, along with the rest of IBM's Intel line, will work with its new Advanced Connectivity Technology (ACT) for cutting down the number of cables cascading from the back of a rack chassis, Benck said.

The cabling technology allows an administrator to connect each server to its closest neighbor in the rack and then have the last server in the chassis plug into a management switch. Administrators can currently connect 16 KVM (keyboard video mouse) cables into one switch. With IBM's technology, up to 256 servers can now be connected into the one switch, according to the company.

Cutting down the number of KVM cables should mean administrators will face one less headache when managing numerous servers.

"As servers get denser, you have 1U and 2U high blocks with cables coming out for Ethernet, power, switches, host bus adapters and external storage," said Sarang Ghatpande, an analyst at Port Chester, New York-based research company D.H. Brown and Associates Inc. "This basically solves the KVM cable problem."

Ghatpande said IBM has been able to revive its position in the Intel server market by bringing its high-end technology expertise down to commodity hardware. The company has moved past competitors like Dell Computer Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. by giving users better management tools, he said.

"IBM has really come up in the Intel space," he said. "They have some unique technology for helping people manage this stuff."

IBM's Remote Console Manager product that uses ACT and allows administrators to log in remotely to all of the connected servers starts at US$1,300 and will be available at the end of July.

The x345 server starts at $2,799 with one 2.0GHz Xeon chip. The server supports Microsoft Corp. NT and Windows 2000, Novell Inc.'s NetWare and Linux distributions from Red Hat Inc., SuSE Linux AG and Caldera International Inc.

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