Beefier servers pack more storage, DDR4 memory

HP, IBM, Dell and Lenovo introduce new servers with Intel's Xeon E5-2600 v3 chips, code-named Grantley

Chasing data-center trends, top server makers have made storage and memory capacity a priority in their new servers.

Servers with Intel's new Xeon E5-2600 v3 server chips, code-named Grantley, were announced by Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Lenovo and IBM Monday. The servers were announced on the same day Intel debuted the chips, which are based on the Haswell microarchitecture.

Intel has cranked up the core count to 18 on the new server chips, an improvement from 12 cores in predecessors. IBM said the new 18-core chip helps deliver 59 percent better database performance and 61 percent better virtualization performance than its predecessor, the E5-2600 v2 chip, which shipped last year.

To help boost speed, server makers have beefed up the CPU core count to 36 cores in the new two-socket systems, and have packed in more storage and memory.

The servers are the first with DDR4 memory, which delivers a 40 percent to 50 percent increase in bandwidth and 35 percent reduction in power consumption compared to DDR3 memory, currently in servers. Internal data transfers will be faster with DDR4, and in-memory applications like databases -- where a lot of processing takes place in DRAM -- are expected to benefit as a result.

Server chips could also reduce bottlenecks in network communications, according to Intel. Servers will have support for solid-state drives based on the PCI-Express 3.0 protocol, which offers faster data transfer speeds than SATA controllers in the current crop of servers.

The servers have more storage bays and PCI-Express slots than prior models, and can include SSDs with 2TB capacity. SSDs slotted close to processors are used more like cache, where data is temporarily stored before being sent to memory or long-term storage. SSDs can also speed up applications in distributed computing environments built around Hadoop or OpenStack.

IBM announced servers as part of its System X M5 lineup, aimed at analytics, cloud, databases and other enterprise applications. The System x3650 M5 server can have up to two 18-core Xeon chips, 1.5TB of memory and 86.4TB of storage. A smaller System x3550 has similar specifications but fewer disk bays and 24TB of maximum storage capacity.

The System x3500 M5, a 5U two-socket tower, will ship in the first quarter next year and is targeted at cloud, virtualization and high-performance computing. The server is rather large in size for a two-socket server, but its 72TB of storage capacity with 12Gbps (bits per second) RAID support features stand out.

Lenovo is expected to complete the US$2.3 billion acquisition of IBM's x86 server by the end of the year. Lenovo, which deals in low-end servers, is expected to make System X part of its high-end lineup. Lenovo added new low-cost tower and rack servers with the Intel chips.

The ThinkServer TD350, priced starting at $1,629, is a 4U tower server with more than twice the memory capacity and double the storage capacity of its predecessor. The server supports up to 512GB of memory and 90TB of storage.

The ThinkServer RD550 and RD650 rack servers, which start at $1,829 and $1,929 respectively, have different storage capacities. The 1U RD550 has 12 storage bays and support for up to 26.4TB of storage, while the RD650 has 26 storage bays with support for up to 74.4TB. Both the servers support 768GB of DDR4 RAM. The servers are faster and have more memory and storage than previous rack servers, Lenovo said.

Lenovo's servers will become available in the first week of September.

Dell's new servers include the PowerEdge R630, a 1U rack server that supports up to two Xeon 18-core chips, 768GB of memory, and 23TB of solid-state drive storage. The 2U PowerEdge R730 has similar processor support and memory capacity, but it also has expansion ports to fit in four graphics processors, which are faster at carrying out specific supercomputing, graphics and engineering tasks. GPUs have also been deployed in servers to serve full Windows virtual desktops.

The 2U, two-socket PowerEdge R730xd has a bit more configuration flexibility than the R730, depending on the task. SSDs can be put storage bays and PCI-Express slots and combined with memory capacity to meet hyperscale tasks. For example, a low-cost configuration with 100TB of storage would be good for email serving or Hadoop, Dell said.

HP's new Gen9 line of servers include the ProLiant BL460c blade and DL360, DL380, DL160 and DL180 dense servers. The servers support up to two Intel CPUs and have varying levels of DDR4 memory and storage support.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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Agam Shah

IDG News Service
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