Last week, we told you about an unexpected 16-way xSeries 440 server from IBM Corp that supported up to sixteen “Foster” Pentium 4 Xeon MP processors in a single system image. Based on information obtained early this year that stipulated that IBM would eventually ship a 16-way xSeries 440 box that was code-named “Man-o-war,” we assumed that this 16-way machine was it. Not so, sources at IBM tell us.
Either IBM’s plans changed, or our sources had it garbled back in January. The odds favor the former, not the latter.
In any event, the 16-way machine that IBM has started shipping to customers is an extension of the existing eight-way Vigil server that Big Blue has been shipping since earlier this year using the Summit EXA chipset for 32-bit Intel Xeon MPs. Vigil was announced in four-way and eight-way configurations, and has been largely responsible for driving up IBM’s xSeries revenues in the past few quarters as its sales of similar four-way and eight-way proprietary iSeries and Unix pSeries boxes have languished a bit because of the down economy and, in the case of the pSeries, because of product transitions. While Man-o-war was originally described as a 16-way version of the xSeries 440 machine, the word now from within IBM is that Man-o-war specifically describes a server using a variant of the Summit chipset that has been tweaked to support the 64-bit Itanium 2 chips from Intel. This machine, which sources familiar with IBM’s plans tell us will debut as the xSeries 450 sometime in February, will scale from one to four cell boards and from one to sixteen Itanium 2 processors in a single system image.
At around the same time in the first quarter of 2003, the 16-way Vigil machines will be tweaked to support the Gallatin Xeon MPs. The Gallatins run at 1.5GHz, 1.9GHz, and 2GHz and have twice the L3 cache memory of the slower Foster chips, which run at 1.4GHz, 1.5GHz and 1.6GHz. The four-way and eight-way Vigil xSeries 440 machines already support the Gallatin processors.
HP was not impressed with the performance of the Foster processors compared to the existing 700MHz and 900MHz Pentium III Xeon processors, which go into the current generation of eight-way Intel boxes built using the Profusion chipset that was created by Intel and Compaq. That’s why Compaq and then HP mothballed the F8 eight-way chipset for the Fosters and decided to wait for the Gallatins to launch F8-based machines. These machines are expected to be launched imminently by HP as the ProLiant DL760-G2 servers. The ProLiant F8 servers have been tested using the TPC-C online transaction processing benchmark using the fastest Gallatin chips, and delivered 115,026 transactions per minute on an eight-way box that had 80GB of main memory (64GB partitioned for Windows .NET Server 2003 Datacenter Edition and 16GB used as RAID cache memory) and 8.1TB of disk storage. The F8 machine delivered a price/performance of $7.69 per TPM.
IBM’s xSeries 440 using eight of the same Gallatin processors and the same Microsoft operating system and SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition database was able to chew through 112,741 TPM at a cost of $6.73 per TPM. This xSeries machine was configured with 64GB of main memory and 7.4TB of disk capacity. IBM has not offered benchmark results on the 16-way configuration of this Vigil box, but a four-way version running Windows .NET 2003 Enterprise Server and SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition (configured with 32GB of main memory and 4.9TB of disk capacity) could crank through 74,206 TPM at a cost of $5.75 per TPM. Based on these numbers, we estimate that a 16-way Vigil box from IBM could handle somewhere around175,000 TPM on the TPC-C test, and could do as little as 150,000 TPM if the scalability from 8 to 16 processors doesn’t pan out. What we know for sure is there’s no way that the 16-way machine will do 300,000 TPM, which is four times the work of a four-way Vigil box. Computers don’t work that way.
Excepting cases where companies want to consolidate servers and use partitioning software to carve up these big Wintel and Lintel boxes into smaller virtual servers, most of the action will be on eight-way machines in the coming year, and HP is counting on the F8 machines to shift some money and market share back to it after IBM has been grabbing handfuls at the high-end of the Intel space in 2002. According to research performed by International Data Corp, HP had 56.4% of the eight-way Intel server market in the fourth quarter of 2001 and 57.1% in the first quarter of 2002, but with the advent of the xSeries 440, IBM got 33% of the market in the second quarter (double its share in the second quarter) and HP dropped to 45%. In the third quarter of 2002, IBM’s share of revenue was 41.4% compared to HP’s 40%. Dell’s share of the high-end of the Intel server market has bopped around between 11.3% and 13.3% between Q4 2001 and Q2 2002, and in Q3 2002, it dropped to an 8.6% share of revenue. IBM’s success in the eight-way market has brought the company within spitting distance of HP’s market share on four-way and larger Intel-based servers, too. IBM has taken a point or so of market share away from Dell and seven points away from HP in this sector of the market in the past four quarters.
It’s hard to say how the Man-o-war box will perform or how IBM will price it. We’ll just have to wait to see. email@example.com