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Disrobed servers give Dell an eyeful in 4-socket arena

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Double stuffing the System x to a quad

"We're expecting Dell to come after us in the four-socket space," says Hawkins. "We think we will be able to hold share."

While IBM does have two-socket and four-socket machines using Intel's Xeon E7 processors and sporting its own Max5 memory expansion modules, now that Dell is downshifting to four-socket machines based on the Xeon E5-4600 processors, IBM has to do so as well. (HP has not made its plans for an E5-4600 box known, but it is inconceivable that HP won't have one.)

In any event, IBM's low-gear four-socket box using the E5-4600s is the System x3750 M4, and it is a sibling to the System x3755 quad-socket, 2U rack-mounted machine that IBM created to house the Opteron 6100 and 6200 processors from Advanced Micro Devices.

Note: IBM did not announce an HS43E blade server or a Flex System x440 compute node based on the E5-4600, but these are logical future moves for Big Blue to complement the four-socket HX5 blades based on the Xeon E7s and the four-socket, Power7-based x460 blades already in the field.

The System x3750 quad-socket server

The System x3750 quad-socket server

The x3750 is a 2+2 design, which means it has a two-socket motherboard, so another card with two more sockets and two dozen memory slots can be connected into it.

IBM says that it has an edge over Dell's PowerEdge R820 racker in that it can safely overclock the memory in the System x3750 M4 by 25 per cent compared to Intel's own specifications using either RDIMM or LR-DIMM memory across all four memory channels on the E5-4600 sockets that have three sticks per channel. Generally, if you go with more channels, you have to step down the memory or move to LR-DIMM sticks. Fully loaded, the 48 memory slots on this server (a dozen per socket) can handle 1.5TB of memory, which is a lot to cram into a 2U rack chassis.

The x3750 M4 can house a dozen 2.5-inch disk drives or up to 32 eXFlash 1.8-inch SSDs. The base server has five PCI-Express 3.0 slots with another three more available with a riser card. It has two hot-swamp power supplies and two optional 10GE ports in a dedicated slot (you have to pay extra for the mezz card to get those ports, however). The x3750 M4 mobo has two Gigabit Ethernet ports standard. It crams a lot of stuff into the box, as you can see:

IBM System x3750 M4 internals

IBM's System x3750 M4 internals (click to enlarge)

The x3750 M4 will be used as a fat node in supercomputer clusters and hence supports Windows Server 2008 HPC Edition as well as the regular Windows variants and the two latest versions of RHEL and SLES Linux. VMware's ESXi 4.1 and 5.0 hypervisors as well as the Xen and KVM embedded in Linux are also supported.

The x3750 M4 will ship on July 14. A base machine with one four-core E5-4603 spinning at 2GHz and 8GB of main memory costs $7,959. Essentially, you have to really want to expand this box to make it worth your while economically. With four eight-core E5-4650s running at 2.7GHz, 384GB of memory in half the open slots, and a dozen 600GB SAS disks, this baby costs $53,021. Not exactly discretionary spending at most companies. ®

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