IBM acquired Sequent, a pioneer in Numa (non uniform memory architecture) scalable multi-processor server architecture, in 1999. The company said it would unveil a Numa-based PC server architecture at CeBIT that it believes is the first of its kind.
Tikiri Wanduragala, a senior consultant at IBM, said the new server would be based on a scalable four-way server building block. IBM plans to tie several such servers together using the IBM Scalable Port - a fast connector designed to link together four-way servers.
Wanduragala said the link works in a similar way to Numa by allowing processors from one server building block to access memory on another building block, to deliver multi-processing. The new server would be positioned as a migration path for users of the Sequent 540 machine.
One of the main differences with the new hardware he noted was that while the Sequent requires three computer boards to support multi-processing with Numa, the Scalable Port could acheive the same result with a three chip chipset.
By reducing the complexity he said IBM would be able to reduce the cost of the servers by a factor of four.
Along with an upgrade for Sequent users IBM plans to position the new server as a migration path for users of its recently introduced four-way eServer 360. This machine does not offer the Scalable Port so cannot be scaled beyond four processors.
But Wanduragala said the new line of servers would offer the same management console, external I/O and hot-pluggable memory features.
Unlike Sequent hardware that requires custom built software and operating systems to taken advantage of the multi-processing functionality, Wanduragala said memory could be accessed in three CPU clock cycles. He said this made it possible for the server to run shrink-wrapped software.