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IBM moves servers to Pentium II

For those tired of the Pentium Pro, IBM will offer a Pentium II upgrade card to its 325 and 330 servers this month and a Pentium II server later.

For those who find the Pentium Pro passe, IBM will offer a Pentium II upgrade card to its 325 and 330 servers this month, as well as a Pentium II server later in the quarter.

Like a number of other companies, IBM has begun to adopt the flagship processor in Intel's Pentium line now that the chipmaker has incorporated Error Correcting Cache into the Pentium II motherboard. ECC corrects errors that can occur during the transmission of data and has become a standard demand for customers that have onerous computational requirements.

For example, a financial trading firm handling million- or billion-dollar forecasts needs ECC because even a small memory glitch could make calculations devastatingly wrong.

The upgrade costs $1,725 for a 233-MHz Pentium II and $2,070 for a processor running at 266 MHz. The underlying board costs an additional $525.

IBM is one of a number of companies coming out with a Pentium II server for the second half of the year. Hewlett-Packard (HPW) and Compaq Computer (CPQ) are expected to announce similar servers soon. NEC Computer Systems and Dell Computer have already announced that they will have Pentium II servers based on the ECC memory version of the chip.

The next logical step in the evolution of the Pentium II as a server platform lies in increasing the number of processors that can be strung together in one machine. At present, only two Pentium IIs can be joined in a single computer, while one to four Pentium Pros can be used in a standard server. Some manufacturers have even come up with designs using eight to ten Pentium Pros, said Jerry Sheridan, a director and principal analyst at Dataquest.

"Intel will support the Pentium II on servers with two or less for now, but given that two Pentium IIs outperform two Pentium Pros, it is only a matter of time that customers are going to start asking for Pentium IIs for the larger servers," he said.

Although one- to two-processor servers continue to make up the bulk of the server market, multiprocessor servers are becoming more common. By the end of next year, standard configuration eight-way processors will likely be coming out of major manufacturers, analysts and executives have predicted.