IBM expands memory on Intel servers

IBM expands memory on Intel servers

IBM will begin shipping servers later this month with new memory technologies designed to boost system performance while lowering hardware costs.

IBM's research arm has developed an algorithm for encoding data that makes a computer's physical memory appear to be double its size. The Memory Expansion Technology (MXT) has been added to a new chipset designed by IBM that will ship in Intel-based xSeries servers available worldwide later this month, said Jeff Benck, director of marketing for the xSeries at IBM.

Hardware supplier ServerWorks has licensed the technology from IBM, which means other server makers could be including it in their servers down the road. ServerWorks is an independent supplier of I/O systems for servers and storage hardware.

By bringing the Level 3 cache closer to the processor and adding the new memory controller on the chipset, IBM claims it can sell a server that offers twice the memory for a slightly higher cost. In addition, the server should be able to deliver data to applications at a faster clip.

The x330 1U(1.75 inches) thick rack server with two 1.4GHz Pentium III-M chips, 4GB of memory and 2PCI slots will cost just under $US3000, Benck said. That is $300 more than a similar x330 without the MXT technology.

While ServerWorks may eventually license the technology to its other customers such as Dell Computer, one analyst said IBM will have a lead over its rivals in the near term.

"IBM has a head start," said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64. "Let's say Michael Dell reads the paper and decides he wants this. It will take Dell three to six months before it can assemble, test and sell a similar system."

Brookwood added that the MXT technology would be helpful for administrators trying to get the most out of limited space in their server farms. The x330s often sit in densely packed racks where space is at a premium so more memory in the same area is a plus, he said.

IBM claims this type of advance on lower-end servers proves that research dollars still add value to products that companies like Dell are starting to commoditise.

"We can match Dell on price, and they can't match us on technology," Benck said.

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