IBM readies Opteron cluster system

IBM will ship its first cluster server based on Advanced Micro Devices' 64-bit Opteron microprocessor this autumn, IBM officials...

IBM will ship its first cluster server based on Advanced Micro Devices' 64-bit Opteron microprocessor this autumn, IBM officials have announced.

The system, which IBM demonstrated to press, analysts and customers at ClusterWorld in San Jose on Tuesday, uses the same chassis as IBM's Intel Xeon-powered eServer Cluster 1350 system.

The demonstration model was a dual-processor rack-mounted system containing two 1.8GHz AMD 244 Opteron processors. IBM executives said that when the system ships it will come in a variety of configurations based on AMD's 200 series Opteron chips.

IBM began work on these systems this spring, around the time the company first announced support for AMD's new processor, said IBM vice president of deep computing Dave Turek.

The systems will come with as much as 12Gbytes of memory and will include 2 SCSI (Small Computer System Interface) disk drives. Like the Cluster 1350, they will ship with Linux and IBM's Cluster Systems Management for Linux software, Turek said.

IBM's Opteron demo comes the week before Intel is expected to launch the third generation in its line of Itanium processors, code-named Madison. Although Turek said his company intended to deliver an Itanium 2-based cluster system, he clearly was more bullish on Opteron.

"The uptake on Itanium has been slow," said Turek.  He blamed Itanium's slower-than-expected adoption in part on the fact that independent software vendors and customers have been reluctant to port their applications to Itanium's 64-bit instruction set.

"It is a bad thing to do when you introduce a new technology to tell customers, 'by the way, everything's new','" he said.

Both Opteron and Itanium can run 32-bit Intel applications, but because the Opteron processor appears to outperform Itanium when running 32-bit programs, and because developers can change their applications more easily to take advantage of Opteron's 64-bit instruction set, AMD's processor is beginning to gain traction in the market, said Giga Information Group analyst Stacey Quandt.

"If you just want raw power, the Itanium is a good selection," said Quandt, "but if you're looking at price performance and the ease of porting an application to a 64-bit architecture, Opteron is the right choice."

Pricing for the new systems has not been determined, but Turek said they will be priced "in the ballpark" of the Cluster 1350.

Robert McMillan writes for IDG News Service

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