Big Blue Bolsters Blades with Opteron

IBM upped its backing of AMD’s Opteron processor this week, announcing its new eServer Cluster 1350, which the company claims is the only integrated cluster solution using AMD 64 dual-core technology in the blade form factor — thin, lower-power servers that are joined in large numbers for higher-performance computing.

Big Blue said its Cluster 1350 would give customers access to a broader set of applications requiring “extreme” performance, as well as node and switch choices to meet various business and research needs, such as high-performance and memory-intensive applications.

Flexibility for Frustration

IBM said the updated Cluster 1350, to be available in mid-July and priced at about US$2,260, would enable high performance computing through clusters that are optimized for specific application environments. The company claimed the technology will allow customers to create clusters “without assuming the risk of testing, integrating, deploying and supporting their own clusters,” according to a statement from Bob Lenard, director of IBM’s Linux clusters.

“The Cluster 1350 reduces complexity and the need for customers to maintain multiple service and support relationships,” he said.

IBM added the Cluster 1350 — used primarily in the financial services, industrial, petroleum and life sciences industries — would have improved capacity for a broader range of applications, and would also include more switch and interconnect options for more networking flexibility.

Opting More for Opteron

Gartner research vice president Martin Reynolds told TechNewsWorld the new Opteron-based eServer BladeCenter represented greater support from IBM for Opteron, which competes with Intel’s Itanium.

“We haven’t seen IBM pushing Opteron,” he said. “Maybe this signals they’re doing more. It’s nice that IBM’s doing more Opteron. They have been fairly low-level on it thus far.”

IBM strives to maintain strong performance in the blade server arena. However, while the company is leading the market by offering dual-core processor technology in blade servers now, most if not all servers will be multi-core within a few years. While there is sure to be more of it on the way, Reynolds acknowledged IBM was “early” with the dual-core technology in blade server form.

Blades Getting Bigger

Although they are slim in size, blade servers are capturing more and more of the market, and IBM is one of the few companies shipping blades in volume, according to Reynolds.

IDC analyst Jean Bozman told TechNewsWorld that blade servers — which typically perform networking and storage roles — are expected to represent nearly 20 percent of all server sales by next year.

Bozman added while the small-size servers account for a smaller amount of the market in terms of revenue, that is also changing, particularly with companies such as IBM and HP, which is increasingly looking toward Itanium, promoting blade servers.

“We do see them ramping up,” she said. “It’s getting up there and it’s getting noticeable not just in units but in revenue as well.”

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