IBM now selling Opteron blade

Server to ship in June

IBM has quietly begun taking orders for its first ultra-thin "blade" server to be based on Advanced Micro Devices's (AMD) Opteron microprocessor. Called the AMD Opteron LS20, the server is based on IBM's BladeCenter design and will be available with a special low-power version of the Opteron.

The new server, which will be the third Opteron product to be sold by IBM, will begin shipping in June, said IBM spokesman Tim Willeford.

Blade servers, which slide into a common chassis much like books into a bookshelf, are much smaller and easier to configure than other types of servers. IBM executives had been promising to sell Operton-based blades since December of last year, but the LS20 first appeared unannounced on the IBM.com Web site on May 3, according to Willeford

News of its existence was first reported on The Register Web site.

IBM was the only major server vendor to back AMD's 64-bit microprocessor when it was unveiled two years ago, but today IBM rivals Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems offer a wider selection of Opteron-based systems.

This early support was a critical factor to Opteron's success, but now that other vendors have jumped on board, IBM may feel less pressure to expand its product line into markets that are not explicitly demanding Opteron, said Gordon Haff, an analyst with Illuminata Inc., in Nashua, New Hampshire.

"They will meet customer requirements, but they're certainly not going to proliferate Opteron models unnecessarily," Haff said of IBM. "The processors make sense for some types of applications, and blades are an attractive form factor, particularly if you're going to have a large number of servers," he said.

The LS20 will be available with a special low-power 68-watt Opteron processor, which will make the server cooler than the typical Opteron system. Standard Opteron processors require 95 watts of power -- about one-third more energy than the LS20.

AMD sells the 68-watt version of its 2.4GHz Opteron Model 250 to both HP and IBM, said Phil Hughes, an AMD spokesman.

HP began shipping its first two Opteron-based blade servers, the ProLiant BL25p and BL35p, in March of this year.

IBM's servers will also ship with the 2.0GHz dual-core Model 270 processor, as well as two other single-core processors: the 2.0GHz Model 246 and the 2.6GHz Model 252.

The LS20 will support up to 8G bytes of DDR (double data rate) memory and as many as two U320 SCSI (small computer serial interface) hard drives. It will be available with Microsoft Windows or the Red Hat or Suse Linux operating system.

Pricing for the systems start at $2,259 for servers based on the Model 246 processor with 1G byte of memory. An LS20 based on the Model 270 with the same amount of memory starts at $3,649, according to IBM's Web site.

More details on the new blades can be found here: http://www-132.ibm.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/CategoryDisplay?categoryId=4611686018425010152&storeId=1&catalogId=-840&langId=-1

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