IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Dell said their new low-end and midrange servers will be their fastest to date, dwarfing earlier products that ran on Intel-based chips. The servers will include Intel's latest Xeon 5500 quad-core series chips, which boosts overall server performance while drawing much less power.
"This is the largest increase in performance in the history of Xeon product line," said Kirk Skaugen, vice president and general manager, server platforms group at Intel.
HP and Dell said the chips double server performance while consuming 50 percent less power than their predecessors. Nehalem's micro-architecture design improves data throughput by cutting bottlenecks that plagued older chips.
The new servers reflect a trend of cutting datacentre costs while delivering performance gains via faster chips and virtualisation, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
"These issues line up pretty well with enterprise customers' overriding concerns about the fragile economy and needing to quantify the economic value of the IT products they plan to buy," he said.
Chip improvements should allow servers to execute more tasks in virtualised environments, which should consolidate servers in smaller spaces in datacentres. That could also help cut additional overhead costs per server, including energy and hardware acquisition costs.
Up to nine servers with Xeon processors can consolidate into one Nehalem-based quad-core Xeon server, Intel's Skaugen said. HP officials said that up to 24 single-core servers could be merged into one quad-core Xeon server.
Manufacturing company Emerson is looking to merge about 140 datacentres into just a couple of centres by reducing the number of servers, said Stephen Hassell, vice president and chief information officer, during a Dell press conference last week. He said the company merged 18 old servers into one Nehalem-based Dell PowerEdge server, while reducing the server footprint by up to 50 percent.
The improved server performance comes partially from a faster pipe that allows chips to communicate faster with other processors, memory and system components. A crucial architectural change involves the integration of a memory controller on a CPU, which gives CPUs a faster communication channel with memory. The data-throughput improvements are bundled under a technology called QuickPath Interconnect, or QPI.