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IBM to use Intel's Foster chip in servers

IBM has given Comdex delegates a sneak preview of its water-cooled xSeries server.

IBM has thus provided a glimpse of how it intends to package heat-intensive 64-bit Intel McKinley processors when they begin to arrive next year. IBM's xSeries servers are Intel-based.

The yet-to-be-named xSeries server is IBM's first application of its Enterprise X technology, formerly codenamed Summit, said Brendan Paget, IBM's worldwide marketing manager for xSeries servers.

Only three rack units high (about 5.25in), the server is a four-way system running Intel's Foster architecture-based Xeon server chips, Paget said.

For a chassis that small, IBM is using six fans and water-cooled heat synchs that rise from each Xeon chip. The water is in a vacuum container that is aerated by the heat synch fins, which cools the chips.

Intel's 32-bit Xeon processors create a significant amount of heat during normal operation. Intel's forthcoming 64-bit McKinley chips will create even more heat, and a vendor-wide engineering effort is under way to figure out the best way to house McKinley chips while keeping them cool.

IBM's approach to cooling McKinley chips will likely be water-based, as demonstrated by the new four-way xSeries server, said Paget.

Coupling the Xeon chips in the xSeries server is IBM's XA-32 chipset, Paget said. IBM invested $20m (£14m) in the development of the XA-32 chipset, which uses standard DDR-SDRAM memory.

"There will also be an XA-64 chipset," said Paget, hinting that with the XA-32 chipset, IBM had already laid the groundwork to deliver a chipset that supports McKinley, when it arrives from Intel sometime next year.

The new four-way xSeries server shown at Comdex also offered expandable input/output (I/O) thorough the use of an I/O expansion enclosure. The expansion enclosure can quickly double the amount of I/O available to the new xSeries server and is connected by a cord based on Infiniband technology, Paget said.

Ideally, users will ultimately be able to use the expansion enclosure outlet and plug the new xSeries server directly into an Infiniband switched fabric network, Paget said. High-speed Infiniband networking products are expected to begin arriving in late 2002.

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