IBM Unveils 32-/64-bit Chipset

IBM Corp. showed its roadmap for delivering high-end, industry-standard servers Wednesday when it unveiled a new chipset called "Summit."

Chipsets house processors, memory and I/O. The four-way Summit chipset will be IBM's platform to build servers for Intel Corp.'s next generation of 32-bit and 64-bit processors in multiprocessing configurations.

The chipsets can be combined in increments of four processors to build 8-way and 16-way systems. Additionally, systems can be partitioned with from one to four operating systems. IBM has not released the branding of the Summit chipset-based servers, although it will be some variation on the eServer xSeries, the Intel-based server line formerly known as Netfinity.

The chipset technology will support both 32-bit processors and 64-bit processors. The chipset is designated for one type or the other at the factory and cannot be changed by a user later.

IBM expects to deliver 32-bit versions of the chipset with the availability of multiprocessing versions of Intel's Xeon processor, also known by the code name Foster, sometime around the beginning of next year.

The 64-bit versions of the chipset will be available at the same time as Intel's McKinley processor, the second generation of Intel's 64-bit processors. That chip is expected in mid-2002.

Plans call for 16-processor servers to be available as soon as each chipset is available.

IBM also announced Wednesday that Intel will use the Summit chipset as a reference platform to validate its Foster and McKinley processors.

IBM is not announcing the form factor for the servers, other than that they will be rack mountable. However, the company is boasting that the servers will introduce some new concepts to computing.

For example, a user who buys a four-processor Summit system will be able to upgrade the system to an eight-processor server by adding a second four-way server and hooking the servers up through what IBM calls a high-speed scalability port. The two servers act as one logical machine.

Summit also supports remote I/O, which allows I/O to occur several meters from the server; hot-swappable memory; and L4 memory cache.

IBM has been relatively quiet about its plans for greater-than-eight-processor Intel and Windows servers up until now.

Big Blue was originally the lone holdout among the big four U.S. server vendors in entering OEM agreements with Unisys Corp. Compaq, Hewlett-Packard and Dell all entered agreements with Unisys to resell Unisys' 32-processor CMP servers, which have been shipping since early 2000. Compaq and HP later withdrew their plans to resell the systems. Unisys has shipped 420 of the big servers.

IBM, meanwhile, announced plans in March to introduce 64-processor NUMA servers running the Whistler generation of Windows Datacenter Server. But the company had not spoken about commodity servers.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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