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IBM Flexes X6 and Xeon Muscle

By Charles King E-Commerce Times ECT News Network
Jun 2, 2014 5:00 AM PT

IBM's new Flex System compute node solutions -- the x280 X6, x480 X6 and x880 X6 -- don't qualify as anything new, some might say. After all, they utilize solutions announced months ago (IBM's X6 in mid-January and Intel's Xeon E7v2 a month later), which means they simply have been upgraded with the respective vendors' latest and greatest technologies. However, such a blasť attitude would ignore the core premise and promise of the Flex System portfolio and its impact on IBM's enterprise customers.

IBM Flexes X6 and Xeon Muscle

The company intends Flex System solutions to represent a game-changing step up from traditional high-density blade servers. Those solutions are looking a bit long in the tooth, though they still have a place in some traditional applications and use cases.

Resiliency, Agility and Serviceability

However, businesses, from enterprises to service providers, rapidly are adopting various converged systems designed to simplify management, improve performance and flexibility, and enable the implementation of new workloads. Those workloads include analytics, Big Data and large-scale virtualization for cloud and other dynamic environments -- all of which demand significantly improved system resiliency, agility and serviceability, or RAS.

That's where combining Intel's Xeon E7v2 and IBM's X6 technologies can provide notable -- even profound -- benefits. How so? For example, Xeon E7v2 is designed for Big Data, analytics and business-critical workloads, according to Intel. How does it achieve that? By offering triple the memory capacity, twice the average performance, and up to four times the I/O bandwidth of previous generation Xeon CPUs.

As it has for decades of X-Architecture evolution, IBM keys off Intel development to further expand the latest-gen X6's benefits for customers. In the case of the new Flex System X6 compute nodes, those include offering three times as much memory as previous solutions, delivering up to twice as much performance, and supporting up to 80 percent more VMs, all while delivering what IBM describes as the highest levels of RAS available in any x86-based system.

Benefits All Around

These are all critical points for understanding why IBM is targeting enterprise and service provider customers with its Flex System X6 solutions. It speaks to the financial benefits that the company is likely to gain with these offerings in the near term. It also highlights the long-term value that IBM's Flex System should provide to Lenovo, which will receive it as part of its planned acquisition of IBM's System x assets and organization.

That confluence is certainly one part of this latest IBM X6 story, but the larger point to consider is how, for some technologies and some vendors, innovation occurs as part of a steady continuum. That certainly has been the case for IBM's X-Architecture, which has allowed the company to capture and hold a leadership position in higher-end x86 solutions.

Lenovo is poised to gain those same benefits when the System x deal is finalized. If its efforts and experience with IBM's PC division (which it purchased in 2004) are any guide, the companies that eventually will become Lenovo's server customers should look forward to enjoying years or decades of continuing System x and X-Architecture innovation.

E-Commerce Times columnist Charles King is principal analyst for Pund-IT, an IT industry consultancy that emphasizes understanding technology and product evolution, and interpreting the effects these changes will have on business customers and the greater IT marketplace. Though Pund-IT provides consulting and other services to technology vendors, the opinions expressed in this commentary are King's alone.

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