The bad news is that consolidation and tight capital budgets resulting from the depression have forced many data centers to place higher data loads on aging machines.
The good news is that a new generation of servers is about to hit the channel providing both increased performance and lower power consumption just as enterprises are ramping up their hardware refresh cycles.
Intel kick-started the movement this week with the introduction of the six-core Xeon 5600 processor, a new 32 nm device that delivers a 60 percent boost in performance compared to earlier Xeons, coupled with a 30 percent power reduction. Intel execs say it provides up to a 15:1 consolidation ratio in the enterprise and features coding enhancements that cut down on encryption and security overhead.
Naturally, the top server vendors were quick to jump on the new platform. IBM, HP, Dell and SGI all rolled out new 5600-based models featuring roughly the same power/performance benefits of the underlying chips. The systems run the gamut of blade, rack-mount and tower servers, with Dell saying it plans on launched a new line of workstations as well. Look for new models from Cisco and Fujitsu in the coming months.
HPC vendors were also eager to get in on the action. Italy's Eurotech unveiled the Aurora Au-5600, which it bills as the next-generation green supercomputer. It offers petascale computing capability with a liquid cooling design that allows for higher densities than standard enterprise machines. The company says it can deliver a full data center environment in a package the size of a typical user desktop. Cray is also adding support for the 5600 in its CX1 supercomputer.
The 5600 is only the first salvo in what is likely to be a long list of high-performance, low-power processors. AMD is close to unveiling the Opteron 6100, expected to consist of both eight- and 12-core designs, followed later this year by Intel's Xeon 7500 line. The new Opterons are expected to feature DDR3 memory and support for the new HypterTransport 3 interconnect.
New chipsets, of course, usually come at a premium price, particularly as the core count keeps going up. But for organizations still pouring energy into a multitude of single-core servers, a single 5600 machine should let you recoup those capital costs pretty quickly.