New x86 Technology For The Datacenter?

What exactly does IBM mean when it talks about decoupling memory from the processor?

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I wasn’t too surprised when IBM announced new servers early this month that they claim “break constraints of 30-year technology design,” since Big Blue is constantly releasing new products that they say are groundbreaking in one way or another.

Reading deeper into the news, IBM is using new semiconductor technology at the heart of its new eX5 servers that it said took its engineering team 3 years to develop. That’s what really caught my attention.

Specifically, IBM said its engineers expanded the x86 architecture by decoupling the memory from the server’s processor in order to eliminate the need for additional servers to handle increasingly memory-intensive workloads, as well as to flatten the ever-rising cost of operating data centers.

Merely throwing more servers at the problem of workloads doubling annually is not working since that approach adds to management costs, not to mention additional power requirements. This is the concept behind virtualization.

Interestingly, IBM said ‘silicon innovations’ in its fifth-generation Enterprise X-Architecture chip allow processors on the eX5 systems to access extended memory, but was not more specific. Check back with me here as to what exactly those innovations are — I have a call into IBM to find out more.

Also to make it possible to cut down on additional server purchases, IBM said its MAX 5 independent memory scaling technology allows six times more memory than is commercially available today to allow 82% more virtual servers to run for the same license costs, as well as reduce middleware and application expenses.

Where does power awareness come into this? Simple: if you are talking about the datacenter, you have to be talking about power-awareness in the system given the focus on ‘green’ computing and the always-increasing cost of running a datacenter.

If IBM’s claim is true that its eXFlash technology eliminates the need for two entry-level servers and 80 JBODs to support a 240,000 IOPs database environment, saving $670,000 in server and storage acquisition costs, then they are definitely onto something.

–Ann Steffora Mutschler