IBM Debuts Itanium 2-based xSeries Server

IBM Wednesday made good on its promise to deliver a machine based on the Itanium 2 architecture, unveiling the eServer xSeries 450 for applications that require a lot of processing power.

The release of the x450 comes after much debate about when IBM was planning to release a machine for the 64-bit Itanium 2, considering it releases many servers with its own POWER chip architecture. The Armonk, N.Y. firm has also clung to its 32-bit Intel Xeon practice, having already launched the x440 to scale up to 16 Intel Xeon MP processors.

Tailored for such software as high-performance computing and data warehouse applications, the x450 is based on IBM’s Enterprise X-Architecture, which was developed to support both the Intel Xeon and Intel Itanium 2 servers. EXA-based systems are designed to lower costs for customers because they provide a “pay-as-you-grow” price scale, part of IBM’s overarching strategy for e-business on demand.

IBM had been hesitant to leap to the Itanium 2 the way, say, HP has, partly because they believed there was not enough software available to meet the demands of the 64-bit architecture, said Deepak Advani, vice president IBM eServer xSeries. But now that Microsoft’s Windows Server 2003 is out and Linux providers such as Red Hat and SuSE have leapt into the fray, Advani told he believes the time is ripe for IBM to “work the EXA magic with Itanium.”

Still, IBM remains faithful to the 16-bit Xeon schema. IBM is seeing stronger interest in 16-way eServer x440 systems, and is working with Intel and Microsoft to develop Xeon-based systems that will eventually increase to 32 processor, Advani said.

Microsoft, whose Windows Server 2003 is primed to run Itanium 2 servers, is working with IBM and HP to provide a better, more integrated product. HP announced Tuesday new Intel Itanium 2-based workstations running Microsoft Windows XP 64-Bit Edition Version 2003.

The eServer x450 is now shipping at a base price $25,999.