The x360 xSeries server is IBM's first application of its Enterprise X chipset technology, known as Summit, which supports the high-performance 32-bit Xeon MP chips.
The x360 also represents the first step in a refresh of IBM's entire Intel-based line of servers, said Brad Day, a senior analyst at Giga Information Group.
Core elements of Enterprise X technology aim to make it easier for users to move tasks from 32-bit servers, such as the x360 to 64-bit Itanium-based servers, Day added.
Available in December, the x360 is a four-way server that can run either 1.5GHz or 1.6GHz Xeon MP chips. IBM is targeting the rack-optimised server at companies that want to consolidate large numbers of Intel-based servers into single symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) systems such as the x360.
"The 3U form factor allows for much better density, allowing for 40% more processors per rack, which will appeal to customers running out of floor space," said Deepak Advani, vice-president of IBM's eServer group.
The x360 can handle applications such as file and print, e-mail, enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management and certain database tasks.
To cool the Xeon chips within such a small form factor, IBM is using six fans and water-cooled heat sinks that rise from each Xeon chip.
"A lot of the innovation we are doing with the x360 will carry over to the 64-bit [Itanium] processor space," Advani said.
Advani said IBM would also have enhanced versions of the chipset and other parts of Enterprise X architecture in scalable systems by the first half of 2002.
Day said the x360 would work in virtual private network deployments, terminal serving environments and "lightweight" telco applications. Beyond its initial uses, the x360 represents the future of IBM's Intel-based computing architecture, he added.
"What [IBM is] trying to do with Summit - Enterprise X architecture - is to bring some of the other technologies that have been developed from other server groups and wrap them around a commodity-based Intel environment," said Day.