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IBM expands deal to boost servers

The company will use software that lets servers act bigger than they are. IBM also announces performance scores for its new "Vigil" servers.

IBM has expanded a deal with VMware, a company whose software lets servers act bigger than they are.

VMware's software lets a single Intel server run several operating systems simultaneously, similar to features in IBM's higher-end Unix and mainframe servers and useful for consolidating work onto fewer machines.

IBM and VMware began working together earlier this year, but now IBM will sell VMware's top-end ESX version on its servers and through its Global Services division, the companies said Monday.

The move underscores the steady growth in power of Intel servers. These machines--which accounted for the vast majority of one- and two-processor servers sold last year--are increasingly competitive with the specially designed RISC/Unix servers from Sun Microsystems, HP and IBM that need their own chips and operating systems.

Also on Monday, IBM announced performance scores using the TPC-C benchmark test for its new eight-processor x440 "Vigil" servers. The IBM score of 92,000 beat eight-processor designs from Hewlett-Packard and Dell that used an earlier Intel Xeon chip, with respective scores of 69,000 and 57,000. The benchmark, one of the key ones for servers, measures how many transactions the server can perform per minute.

HP has been bickering with IBM over performance scores for Intel servers using Intel's latest-generation Xeon MP chip, which HP said wasn't fast enough. And Dell rejected a deal to use IBM's x440 technology in its own servers.

HP is the major server company pushing Intel's higher-end Itanium processor, and now some of the comparisons with the Xeon line are becoming possible. HP's rx5670 server, with four Itanium 2 processors, posted a TPC-C score of 78,000, not far from the 92,000 IBM score for x440 with eight Xeon processors.

IBM's x440, one of the first IBM Intel servers to include major design elements from Big Blue itself, is the flagship of the company's effort to wrestle some market share away from No. 1 HP and No. 2 Dell--and the effort is showing some success. The x440 "performed well" in the second quarter, helping IBM increase its Intel server shipments, market share analysis firm Gartner said Monday.