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Intel's Xeon 5600 May Retire a Lot of 'Geezer Servers'

By Jennifer LeClaire
March 17, 2010 1:56PM

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Intel's Xeon Processor 5600 series is practically a no-brainer with fast ROI and security. The new 32nm Xeon 5600 validates virtualization on x86 systems and should retire a lot of "geezer servers," an analyst said. With Intel's focus on security, the Xeon 5600 also appears ready to take on the mainframe and UNIX crowds.

Intel is pushing its Xeon Processor 5600 series as the most secure data-center processor on the market. The company launched the server and workstation chips on its 32nm logic technology, which relies on second-generation high-k metal gate transistors to boost speed and lower energy consumption.

Intel is shooting high with this offering. But will enterprises buy the new chips that support up to six cores per processor? Will the processors, which offer up to 60 percent better performance than Intel's last generation of chips, make short-term inroads into large data centers in the midst of a recession?

As Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, sees it, the fact that Intel is launching a chipset with 60 percent better performance and 30 percent better energy efficiency should play among two audiences: Companies that increasingly lean on x86-based solutions for demanding business applications and processes, and companies that are trying to lower their data-center power costs or leverage the most out of blades and other high-density server systems.

Chips for the Budget-Conscious

"If anyone continues to have qualms about the value and validity of x86-based virtualization, the Xeon 5600 series will help put those doubts to rest," King said. "The notion of retiring 15 single-core systems with a lone Xeon 5600 machine -- and achieving ROI in five months -- should thaw even the frostiest Scrooge-like data-center owner."

King points to market studies suggesting that less than a third of the x86 servers that could be virtualized have actually been virtualized. That leads him to believe that Xeon 5600-based systems are primed to send a lot of "geezer servers" to that "old loading dock in the sky." If they don't, he added, budget-conscious execs should have a word with their IT managers.

Focus on Security

From a security perspective, King said fans of proprietary UNIX and mainframe systems have boasted about the superiority of their servers in a variety of performance metrics, business applications, and security scenarios for years.

"The divisions between those systems and x86-based servers have narrowed considerably in virtually every area except security, but with the introduction of Intel's AES-NI and TXT, that situation is very likely to change in both conventional and cloud-computing environments," King said.

King was particularly impressed by the proof of concept demonstrated by Intel, EMC and VMware at last week's RSA conference, which leveraged Intel's TXT to provide clear visibility into cloud-based physical and virtual machines, thus allowing finer-grained policy and compliance control.

"In short, we consider Intel's new Xeon Processor 5600 series to be notably innovative in its own right and believe it will inspire significant innovations by server vendors, including Dell, IBM and HP, among many others," King said. "Overall, the appearance of the Xeon 5600 series should be welcomed by x86 server owners of most every stripe, but will also have competing microprocessor and server vendors looking over their shoulders."

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