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IBM brings X3 chipset to third server

Big Blue expected to announce the four-processor xSeries 260 server--a variation of the x366 that has much more storage capacity.

SAN FRANCISCO--IBM is expected to announce the four-processor xSeries 260 server Wednesday, the third server model in a line that differs from competitors' products by using supporting chips of the computer maker's own design.

The server--also called the x260--is a variation of the x366 that's larger but includes much more storage capacity, Jay Bretzman, director of IBM's high-performance Intel server division, said in an interview here at the Intel Developer Forum. Like the x366, it uses as many as four of Intel's "Cranbrook" version of the Xeon processors.

The system uses the IBM-designed X3 chipset, which links the processors to each other, memory and other parts of the system. The X3 also is used in the x460, a modular server design with four-processor modules that can be linked into a server with as many as 32 processors.

Hewlett-Packard, the top seller of x86 servers, and Dell, the second-ranked company in the market, have taken a different approach, choosing to rely solely on Intel's chipsets for their Intel-based servers. HP said this year it stopped developing its own chipset, relying only on Intel's. Sun Microsystems sells x86 servers, but they use only Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron processor.

The x260 is 12.25 inches thick and will be available in mid-September as either a tower or rack-mounted model. The starting price will be $4,599 for a model with one processor, 1GB of memory and no hard drive, Bretzmann said. More richly configured alternatives with four processors will likely sell for between $8,000 and $10,000.

The system can accommodate as many as 12 300GB hard drives, he said. It's likely to appeal to banks and hotels, customers that often need a moderately powerful server at their branch locations. Systems with less storage, such as the x366, are typically used by larger customers that rely on remote storage systems connected over a network.

The X3 originally was designed to work with both Xeon and Itanium processors, but IBM dropped Itanium support. "Should the market develop to the point where it's required, we would reconsider having Itanium back in the product line," Bretzmann said.