Itanium 2 system on the way from IBM

IBM used the LinuxWorld conference here this week to flex its 64-bit computing muscle, showing off a system running on Intel's Itanium 2 processor and a version of its DB2 database for Advanced Micro Devices's (AMD) Opteron processor.

IBM has said it will support Intel's new Itanium 2 chips but has yet to announce what its systems will look like. Users at the LinuxWorld conference, however, could sneak a peak at one new server that will arrive later this year -- a system that can house 4 or 8 processors dubbed the x450, which was on show at IBM's booth.

IBM also showed a 64-bit version of its DB2 database running on SuSE Linux AG's distribution of Linux and AMD's 64-bit Opteron processor, which is due to appear in servers early next year.

The demonstration of 64-bit products based on Intel and AMD chips marks IBM's adoption of some of the freshest technology in the server world. Like its rivals Sun Microsystems Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM has long sold 64-bit servers that run on RISC (reduced instruction set computer) processors and the Unix operating system. IBM is now adding the new 64-bit technology from Intel and AMD to its arsenal.

The x450 was connected to a cluster of IBM servers running DB2 in a demonstration here. IBM would not provide the speeds of the Itanium 2 chips or provide further details about its Itanium 2-based systems. A spokeswoman did say that, "IBM will support Itanium 2 across its product line."

IBM joins HP, NEC Corp., Unisys Corp. and others with a working Itanium 2 server. Dell Computer Corp. is the lone major Intel-backer not to have announced a server based on the chip, but one analyst said the company is likely to soon join the fold.

"Everybody except Sun will have an Itanium 2 box by the end of the year or early next year, even Dell," said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst with the consulting company Insight 64 in Saratoga, California.

AMD was not left out of the 64-bit events, showing IBM's DB2 system on its Opteron chips and a server design using Opteron from Newisys Inc.

An IBM software engineer at AMD's booth said that it only took the company two days to port the database to the new Opteron processors.

The server design from Newisys also garnered attention from showgoers.

Newisys had a 1U (1.75 inches) high design on display which was powered by two Opteron processors running at 1.2GHz, according to a Newisys engineer at the booth. The AMD chips were preproduction models and are likely to run at higher clock speeds when they ship next year, he said, though AMD officials at the booth declined to comment. The company is hoping major hardware vendors such as Dell and IBM will use its design.

"I think they are engaged with a number of OEMs (original equipment manufacturers)," Brookwood said. "Whether or not those engagements turn into deals remains to be seen."

Brookwood said he was impressed with Newisys' "industrial strength design" and high availability features. The systems could quickly be turned into production servers by any large OEM, he said.

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