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IBM's x86 server chief departing

Susan Whitney, who has overseen IBM's push toward high-end servers with Intel and AMD chips, is retiring.

Susan Whitney, the executive who for six years has overseen IBM's attempt to bring some brawn to x86 servers, is retiring.

Whitney, 56, was replaced Thursday by Rich Hume, formerly general manager of operations for IBM's global business services group, a company representative said Friday. However, she'll continue through the first half of 2007 working on projects with server chief Bill Zeitler.

Whitney is leaving the company on good terms, the representative said. "We wish her a healthy and happy life in retirement, and thank her for her great contributions to IBM over the years," the representative said, adding that Whitney has been a leader to other female executives. "This is not a performance-related issue."

The Register first reported Whitney's departure Thursday.

Whitney has overseen major changes at Big Blue. In 1998, IBM began a program called X Architecture to bring some of its higher-end server technology to x86 servers that had been relatively underpowered and undistinguished. Those systems came to market beginning in 2002 under Whitney's watch.

Since she took over, x86 servers have changed dramatically, though IBM's top-end models--systems with dozens of processors--still haven't caught on widely. IBM has risen to the No. 3 spot in the market--in part because Hewlett-Packard acquired the top player, Compaq Computer. As the market has generally consolidated, though, Sun Microsystems has entered the market with its own x86 machines.

Whitney also was in charge of IBM's acceptance of Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron processor, a server chip that gave Intel's Xeon a run for its money. IBM had mixed feelings about Opteron, and as recently as a year ago Whitney saw it as inappropriate for mainstream servers. IBM has since launched its own mainstream Opteron machines, following Sun and HP and matching Dell.