IBM adds quad-core Opterons to the mix

Big Blue is the last of the major vendors to officially add AMD’s quad-core processors to its server portfolio.

IBM is the latest major OEM to add Advanced Micro Device’s quad-core Opteron processors to its server portfolio.

The Armonk, N.Y., company will now officially begin selling three different System x servers that use AMD’s quad-core chip, formally codenamed “Barcelona.” The three systems, which are being announced May 28, are the System x3455, x3655 and the x3755.

The announcement marks a long-awaited milestone for AMD. Now, all four of the major server vendors —Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Sun Microsystems and IBM – along with a host of smaller system vendors now offer quad-core Opterons within their product portfolios.

AMD’s struggles to bring its quad-core processors to market have been well chronicled since the chip maker announced that it would release the chip for servers and workstations in September.

The delay in bringing the processors into the server market has contributed to the company’s bleak financial situation, although AMD’s management has promised a return to stability by year’s end.

The latest support for Barcelona, however, may come a little too late to make much of a difference in both the server and the x86 chip markets. Intel has sold millions of quad-core processors since November 2006 and now these multicore processors are almost standard options with a range of systems.

Intel is already planning to move ahead with a new microarchitecture by the end of year—Nehalem—and AMD is already looking toward shrinking its chips, including the quad-core models, from 65- to 45-nanometers by the end of the year, which will give the chips a performance boost.

This might also give customers a reason to hold off buying an AMD-based system as they wait to see how the new microprocessors perform.

Both chip makers are also planning to add more and more cores to their silicon in the next two years.

The first of the IBM systems to use the quad-core Opterons is the System x3755, a 4U (7-inch) system that can hold up to four processors. The server offers up to 128GB of DDR2 RAM (double data rate 2 RAM), and a total of four, hot swappable hard disk drives with a total capacity of 1.2TB. The system uses the Opteron 8360 SE model that runs at 2.5GHz.

The System x3455 is a 1U (1.75-inch) server that holds either one or two processors, offers up to 48GB of RAM and has two SATA II (serial ATA) hard disk drives that have a maximum capacity of 1.5TB. IBM lists a number of processors that it offers with this server, including the Opteron 2352 (2.1GHz), the 2356 (2.3GHz) and the 2360 SE, which is not listed on the AMD Web site.

Finally, IBM has the System x3655, a 2U (3.5-inch) system that supports one or two processors, has a maxim of 64GB of RAM, and support for eight, 2.5-inch SAS (Serial Attached SCSI) hard disk drive that offer 1.8TB of capacity. The system supports either the Opteron 2352 processor (2.1 GHz) or the 2356 model (2.3 GHz).

All three of the IBM systems are available in June. The System x3455 starts at $1,809, the x3655 at $2,499 and the x3755 at $3,407.

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