Big advances in server power in six months

Intel will next year deliver major changes to the PC server architecture that will boost hardware performance, allowing larger, more memory-intensive applications.

Intel will next year deliver major changes to the PC server architecture that will boost hardware performance, allowing larger, more memory-intensive applications.

The advances are so significant that IT organisations should consider delaying hardware purchasing decisions until the new products have been evaluated, analysts and user groups have advised.

"The technology developments are a huge step forward for the PC server architecture," said Martin Hingley, group vice-president at analyst firm IDC.

Intel will next year produce dual-core Xeon hybrid 32/64-bit processors that will enable more than one application, or different components of the same application, to run simultaneously. PC server architecture will advance further with the replacement of parallel hardware interfaces with serial interfaces.

Jim Pappas, director of initiatives at Intel's digital enterprise group, said this will boost server performance by allowing components and peripherals to communicate at much faster speeds than is possible today.

The introduction of serial memory in 2006 will allow servers to be configured with a new memory chip called FBDimm (Fully Buffered Dual In-line Memory Module). The chip will support 32Gbytes of memory - four times the current 8Gbyte maximum. The bandwidth of the memory will also be boosted by 33% to 6.7gbps, Pappas said

Hingley said applications likely to take advantage of this include MySQL and SQL Server 2005.

Mike Thompson, principal research analyst at Butler Group, said the new technologies would drive server consolidation, but they could also lead to more complexity. "You have to look at how you use the servers as it can be easier and cheaper to maintain a number of simple servers than one complex one," he warned.

HP user group deputy chairman Colin Butcher said, "If existing systems are hitting the end of their usable life, IT departments would want to replace now. But if maintenance costs are acceptable, it would be worth waiting for next-generation products."

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