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IBM rolls in Clover with Dell

Big Blue brings forth five quads – servers, that is

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The inevitable has happened: following Dell's winning of the "first to announce Clovertown servers" race, the other contenders have now joined in. IBM, for example, has chipped in with four new servers – two rack systems and two towers – together with a Clovertown BladeServer.

The announcement comes at an interesting, possibly inconvenient time for Big Blue, slap in the middle of what is traditionally the biggest quarter for server sales. Some senior execs in Raleigh, North Carolina, did hint to El Reg that announcing new systems with new processors at this time was, at the very least, "inconvenient". It does seem as though the server vendors – and users themselves – are set to be put upon by Intel's desire to claw back leadership in the processor race from AMD.

It is interesting to speculate how many Clovertown-equipped servers will actually be sold, especially as Yorkfield, Intel's single chip implementation of the quad-core processor, is likely to appear during the first half of next year. Clovertown is, of course, two dual-core processors packaged together.

IBM's two rack servers are the x3650, a 2U, two-socket system suitable for medium and large enterprise's datacenter environments. The currently quoted starting price – which IBM is at pains to point out could change at any minute - is $2,419. The other, the x3550, is a 1U, two-socket system aimed at users requiring application density in power managed datacentres in medium and large enterprises datacenter environments. Starting price here is $2,369.

For tower server users there are the x3500, a two-socket system with a starting price of $2,189, and the x3400, which is aimed at small and medium businesses, remote/branch offices, or retail applications. Starting price here is $1,839.

The one quad core BladeServer to be introduced is the HS21, which has a starting price of $2,159.

Orders are being taken from 14 November with shipments for the two rack servers expected to start in December. Users seeking the quad-core towers or the BladeServer can get their hands on them in January 2007.

One of the primary arguments being put forward for quad-core is, of course, the greatly improved performance/power consumption ratio. The HS21 BladeServer is set to take this a step further with an additional feature aimed squarely at reducing energy consumption.

Most Blades are currently equipped with a single hard disk drive which holds an image of the operating system and necessary swap files and the like. This will be replaced by a 4GB Flash memory, which is considered sufficient capacity for the job and now costs the same as the disk drive.

Moore's Law points to the storage capacity going up and the price coming down for Flash "disks", so more widespread use of them is not difficult to predict. As well as cost and capacity, however, the key advantage is that the Flash memory consumes just 2W, while the disk drive consumes 12W. ®

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