Low-End Servers Gaining Cores

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Just in time for what will certainly be a round of belt-tightening in the enterprise, leading server vendors are upping the number of cores in their low-end models in a bid to offer more power at less cost.


IBM made the latest move with a series of upgrades to its Power Systems series. The company is doubling the number of cores on the Power 520 and 550 machines, which will now hold four and eight cores respectively, but only when loaded with the i 6.1 operating system. Meanwhile, the higher-end in the Power 570 will double to 32 cores, and the Power 560 will get 16.


The move comes after a number of similar upgrades from HP, Dell, Sun and others. Just last month, Fujitsu added quad-core SPARC64 VII processors to its entry-level Ikkaku server, likely to be renamed the Sparc Enterprise M3000 by the time it ships in December. The device features a single-socket 2RU design aimed either at moderate workloads or high-end environments as part of a server cluster.


Smaller manufacturers see an opening in low-cost multicore designs as well. iXsystems, a member of the FreeBSD Unix project, recently unveiled a pair of single-rack servers that pack up to 16 cores, along with eight hot-swappable drive bays and dual GigE LAN ports. The set includes the iX12X2 and the iX12X2-10G, which also provides a 10 GbE connection.


Microsoft is picking up on the trend as well, retailoring some of its software in anticipation of increasing multicore environments. Just a day after Intel announced its six-core Xeon 7400, Redmond came out with support for 24 cores in its Hyper-V system. Company execs report a 40 percent performance increase moving from a four-socket/16-core to four-socket/24-core environment.


Ostensibly, adding multicores to low-end servers is intended to bring more advanced capabilities to smaller enterprises. But the fact is that with revenues slowing down across the board, it's a sure bet that some of these devices will wind up in top-tier installations as well.