CEBIT: IBM previews new server architecture

IBM separates server processors from memory to boost application performance

IBM on Tuesday announced new System x and BladeCenter servers, which are based on a new server design that the company claims will boost application performance while reducing energy costs in data centers.

The EX5 servers take a step away from traditional x86 server architecture in which processors and memory are locked together. The new server architecture decouples memory from the processors into separate units, according to IBM.

That could help the memory and processor scale separately for faster application performance, while slashing down on storage and energy costs, the company said. IBM is previewing the servers at the CeBIT trade show being held in Hanover, Germany.

"All the new systems have improved energy efficiency in their designs across a wide range of components achieving substantial energy savings when compared to the current generation of similar servers," said Ronald Hagan, vice president of the System x business at IBM.

The servers, targeted at enterprises for use in data centers, will be released later this year, the company said. IBM will introduce three new EX5 systems including four-socket and two-socket rackmount servers and a blade server. The servers will use Intel's upcoming eight-core Nehalem-EX processor. The company declined to comment on server pricing.

In the new architecture, the memory is stored in a slim, 1U "drawer," that packs 600 percent more memory than available today on standard servers, Hagan said. IBM has developed a separate X-Architecture chip to reduce latency between memory and processor.

By separating the memory and processor, systems will have access to a larger memory pool with better scalability which could help boost application performance, IBM said. IBM claimed that servers will have access to six times more memory than otherwise found in servers, which could help boost the performance of applications like databases.

Traditionally, more servers are added to handle growing workloads, which lead to a larger server farms and additional power usage, Hagan said. Companies have managed to consolidate x86 servers in virtualized environments, but the hardware utilization rates have suffered as processor and memory components are locked together. In servers, x86 chips from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices are usually connected to the memory.

The new servers will also give companies access to a larger number of virtual servers, which could reduce the cost burden on companies by running applications in a more energy-efficient way, IBM said.

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