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IBM strikes out at Intel with new Opteron box

Still behind HP and Sun

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IDF Fall '04 With the Intel Developer Forum rolling along in full force, IBM made the obvious decision to announce its next-generation server based on AMD's Opteron processor.

The eServer 326 will start shipping in limited volume next week as the follow on to IBM's current e325 system. Like its predecessor, the e326 is a two-processor, rack-mount box aimed at handling scientific computing workloads. Unlike the e325, however, the new system will be able to hold AMD's dual-core version of Opteron due out next year.

The e326 has 8 memory slots and can support up to 16GB of total memory. It also has 2 PCI-X slots and can support up to 2 SCSI or Serial ATA drives. It starts at $2,189 with Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3.0, SuSE Enterprise Linux 9.0, and Windows 2003 Server available as supported operating system options.

While IBM pitches itself as a major AMD Opteron backer, it has in fact fallen behind HP and Sun Microsystems in the Opteron server wars. The e325 was the first Opteron-based server from a major vendor, but IBM never followed this product with the class of systems currently being delivered by its two rivals. Both HP and Sun have numerous general purpose machines, as opposed to IBM's single server and workstation aimed more at technical computing types.

HP plans to expand its Opteron line in the coming months with a new two-way system and blades. Sun is also looking to roll out a new fleet of in-house designed Opteron systems.

IBM, meanwhile, has spent more time touting its Power-based servers than the 64-bit Opteron gear. It seems to make Opteron announcements when it can take a convenient shot at rival and partner Intel.

Our sources, however, indicate that HP has been much braver about angering Intel with regard to the release of AMD-based systems. IBM has pulled back from designing Opteron-based blades and a four-way system at Intel's urging, the sources said. In return, IBM received a favored marketing status when Intel recently rolled out its x86-64-bit Xeon processor. ®

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