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Server power management tools highlighted in x86 roll outs from HP, IBM

HP and IBM plan to start shipping out new x86 servers next month with updated processors, storage capabilities and server power management tools.

Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM will both ship new x86 servers starting next month that feature new dual-core Intel Xeon chips, storage upgrades and server power management tools.

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HP's group of seven servers, including ProLiant and BladeSystem machines, are scheduled to include the Xeon 5000 and 5100 series chips, which Intel says are more energy efficient than previous generations. "The processors themselves are getting an increase in performance and expectations," said John Gromala, director of server product marketing for the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company. "Our systems are designed to take full advantage of those expectations."

HP said it would provide more details next month about when the servers would be shipped, as the company is dependent on Intel's timeline for releasing the new chips. The company did not divulge starting prices, saying it would be in June, but they are expected to be similar to the previous generation of the servers.

"We're expecting to get a big boost in one generation," Gromala said, adding that the machines will also be getting increases in memory -- in some cases more than double -- which will allow data center managers to run applications on 1U servers that they haven't been able to do before.

Other features of the new HP servers include Smart Array RAID controllers and small-form factor serial-attached SCSI (SAS) for storage enhancements, and a feature called Integrated Lights-Out 2, which allows data center managers to have control over the servers from any Web browser, including a power monitoring and regulating capabilities.

"You can have a set of experts that can dial into those servers," Gromala said. "They don't have to keep running down to the data center and working on those things in front of them. It's much more efficient for data centers to be managed that way."

IBM, meanwhile, is pushing server power management and energy efficiency with its new line of Intel-based System x servers, which will start shipping June 9. The first round of shipments will be with an Intel chip codenamed "Dempsey." The ones including the latest Xeon chip, code-named "Woodcrest," will be available on June 27.

The new servers include the x3500 starting at $1,809, the x3550 starting at $1,939, and the x3650 starting at $2,049.

But it is a power management tool only available previously on BladeSystem that has IBM executives talking.

For the first time, the System x servers will include PowerExecutive, a program that IBM says helps IT managers keep a better eye on how much power their servers are using. PowerExecutive made its debut in late 2004 in IBM's BladeSystem, and now the System x folks are bringing it to their side of the aisle.

The PowerExecutive, which has hardware and software components, uses monitoring circuitry to measure how much power one or a group of servers is using and how hot they are.

"Power and cooling are key issues that executives face in the data center today," said Stuart McRae, worldwide System x marketing manager. "[PowerExecutive] gives the ability to see power energy consumption, so customers can understand exactly how much energy their data center is using."

An upgraded version of PowerExecutive is expected to be released by the end of September. It will have features that McRae said will act as a "cruise control for their power utilization." Data center managers will be able to apply power settings to one or multiple servers, setting a maximum amount of power that a server can draw.

"That's a very powerful innovation in our minds, and it takes it much beyond the system level," McRae said.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Mark Fontecchio, News Writer

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