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New Xeon to give Intel a turbo boost

This release places pressure on rival AMD to execute on roadmap

SANTA CLARA, CALIF. – Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC)is calling its Xeon 5500 processor series, announced Monday, the most significant server launch since its Pentium Pro processor in well over a decade, with the innovation not just focused on the chipset core, but the platform as a whole.

Formerly codenamed Nehalem-EP, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip manufacturer’s Xeon 5500 series offers several technologies designed to enable a computing environment that is scalable, dynamic, virtualized, energy efficient and flexible, especially given the today’s constrained IT budgets.

“We see this as significant and as tranformational as the Pentium Pro was in its day,” said Pat Gelsinger, senior vice-president and general manager of the digital enterprise group with Intel.

But the focus isn’t solely on the processor because “a great engine also needs a great transmission,” said Gelsinger, referring to other “intelligent” platform technologies.

For instance, Turbo Boost Technology is a real-time and dynamic control engine to monitor thermal and workload environments by having the capability to shut off or “turbo up” cores. Other platform capabilities include Virtualization Technology FlexMigration, Hyper-Threading Technology for better performance and scalability, integrated memory controller, QuickPath Interconnect.

The combination of the server processors and accompanying features – like integrated memory controllers and extended memory support – form a platform that, as a whole, make things like virtualization possible, said Shane Rau, San Mateo, Calif.-based computing semi conductor analyst with research firm IDC Ltd.

“Something like an integrated memory controller isn’t inherently about virtualization,” said Rau, “but it will benefit virtualization more in a sense of balance between the memory subsystem and the processor subsystem since virtualization puts quite a load on both memory and the processor.”

As the Web grows to what Intel envisions will be at least 15 billion Internet-connected devices by 2015, the Xeon 5500 series will provide the infrastruture for that “embedded internet of the future,” said Gelsinger.

The hardware is based on Nehalem, a new micro architecture announced by Intel last year. Intel already released Core i7 last year, a suite of three desktop processors and the first processors built using the Nehalem architecture.

Having its foundation in the Nehalem architecture will have definite market impact, but over time, said Rau. “It’s the migration of Nehalem implemented on the desktop, and server, mobile, workstations over the course of 2009 and into 2010.”

Steve Thorne, product line manager for Intel’s server platforms group said there are “broad offerings” specifically for the channel like boxed processor versions of Xeon 5500 already available for system builders.

Intel has taken a new approach with the Xeon 5500 launch, said Thorne, because while in past years, it used to ship the processor and HeatSync, the cooling solution, together, it has now separated the two. System builders now have the option to use their own thermal solutions.

“This will help save on inventory carrying costs so the channel distributors only have to stock a certain amount of processors and PCs separately,” said Thorne, adding that reducing the amount of unused thermal solutions in landfills is also a goal.

Thorne said channel vendors are outfitted with products and are ready to go. “So we’ve already stocked them out and they have the production materials so you can go out today and purchase it from any number of vendors,” said Thorne.

Today, Armonk, New York-based IBM Corp., among other hardware vendors, release new offerings based on the Intel Xeon 5500 series. IBM announced new System x servers and software based on the newly-announced Intel server processor, with features intended to help businesses cut energy costs and easily rollout virtualized computing.

The new x86 servers, IBM System x3650 M2 and x3550 M2, include features that should reduce energy consumption, and lower annual energy costs by at least $50,000 for a single enterprise-class data centre. “IT budgets are being stressed by two things, power costs and management costs. From a power standpoint, our end result was a reduction of up to 50 per cent of power costs,” said Bob Galush, vice-president of x high volume servers IBM Corp.

Also new is IBM BladeCenter HS22 intended to give businesses better performance, flexible configuration options, and simpler management across different workloads. And, the IBM System x iDataPlex dx360 M2, the company said, is designed to provide up to five times the compute density versus 1U rack servers in the data centre, and cool the data centre 70 per cent more efficiently with the Rear Door Heat Exchanger.

In addition to the rack servers and blades, IBM also announced management software, Systems Director 6.1, with capabilities intended to help the management of physical and virtual assets across various platforms, including IBM Power Systems, System z, storage and non-IBM x86 servers. The company said businesses can potentially save 44 per cent in management expenses.