Archives || Search || About Us || Advertise || Feedback || Subscribe-
-
Issue of August 2006 
-

[an error occurred while processing this directive]

  -  
 
 Home > Cover Stories
 Print Friendly Page ||  Email this story

Server Update 2006

Updates from Server High

Although x86 servers have established a beachhead in the upper realms of server computing, RISC and IA-64 continue to occupy a position of strength in the enterprise. By Anil Patrick R.

When it comes to the server spectrum’s higher end, there are but few players left. Perhaps, few is an understatement since there are just three major RISC server players left, with the IA-64 to round it off.

This is precisely why it is no secret that the RISC mindshare is tumbling. The x86 platform, which is on an all out trip to conquer the server territory, is doing so at the cost of RISC’s marketshare.

Fall of the dice

This fall in the marketshare is indicated clearly by IDC’s Asia/Pacific Quarterly Enterprise Server Tracker, Q4 2005, February 2006 release. The tracker has pointed out the x86 server’s increasing dominance over the RISC-Unix combine.

“The year 2005 was excellent for x86 server sales, with total shipments growing 42 percent in comparison to 2004. Financial services, IT services, government and manufacturing segments were the major driving forces for the market growth,” says Dinender Sharma, Manager, Computing Products and Channels Research, IDC India in a press statement. “Windows server spending reached close to that of Unix servers for the first time,” he adds.

The lesser marketshare of RISC servers at present in the enterprise is made even more clearer by Network Magazine’s Infrastructure Strategies 2006 survey results. Only nine percent of the respondents of this survey plan to invest in RISC servers during 2006-07.

So do lesser marketshares translate to end of days for RISC servers? We at Network Magazine are definitely not of that belief.

RISC servers are definitely going to be there in the mid- and high-end enterprise segments even if the number of offerings are limited. There are many reasons behind this, the most important of them being their massive scalability power and proven performance.

Less for more

However, the biggest driver for implementation of RISC servers is bound to be server consolidation. The ‘less for more’ proposition is still possible only using RISC servers—add to this increased server virtualisation, multi-core CPUs, and 64-bit applications. These technologies have been around for a long time and are mature on RISC platforms

When it comes to the high-end enterprise server, RISC is yet to find competition from x86 (or IA-64) for that matter. This is why the superiority of RISC servers in terms of running core applications remains undisputed.

It is like pitting commodity against premium offerings. Today’s x86 servers in clustered mode are powerful enough to handle applications that require vertical scale up like databases. While this is feasible and already getting deployed, the fact remains that it is easier to implement and manage such applications on a RISC platform.

However, the biggest driver for implementation of RISC servers is bound to be server consolidation. The ‘less for more’ proposition is still possible only using RISC servers—add to this increased server virtualisation, multi-core CPUs, and 64-bit applications. These technologies have been around for a long time and are mature on RISC platforms.

RISC roadmap is solid

Add to these arguments the fact that a large segment of present day implementations are on the RISC-Unix combine. This is one of the reasons why many enterprises have already gone in for PA-RISC or for PA-RISC server upgrades during 2005-06 despite HP’s announcement to cease selling HP 9000 servers by 2008.

Also consider the fact that RISC vendors are increasingly making their servers affordable for SMBs. That is why we believe that RISC will still have a sizeable chunk of the mid- and high-end server market space during 2006.

As for IBM, the power architecture has been its mainstay on the RISC server side and it has a dependable roadmap. In the year that was, we saw the introduction of the dual core Power 5+ processor in October 2005 (running at the same 1.9 GHz speed as the Power 5). By February 2006 IBM had ramped up the clock speed to its present 2.2 GHz for the high end p5 series. When it comes to the single-core space, IBM is still leading the race at the moment. This is the case on the clock speed front as well for both single-and dual-core.

The next generation of Power CPUs the Power 6 are expected to be launched in 2007. Speculation is rife about the clock speeds that the next generation Power CPUs will have (with expectations of a scale-up to 4 GHz by 2008).

If IBM’s focus is on the clock speed race, Sun’s is on higher thread processing capability and power-performance. This is the USP that Sun uses to back its UltraSparc T1 servers.



Arnab Roy
National Sales Manager
Data Centre Practice
Sun Microsystems India

With up to two cores per CPU, the T1 is capable of processing four threads per CPU. “Increasing clock speeds does not necessarily increase performance. This is why we have used the multiple core approach with reduced thread performance. It has helped us achieve better overall performance,” says Arnab Roy, National Sales Manager, Data Centre Practice, Sun Microsystems India.

This also helps the processor achieve a better power to performance ratio. The T1 also runs cooler as a result with peak power consumption in the range of 79 Watts (72 Watts typical).

Sun is at present working on the next generation of UltraSparc processors—the UltraSparc T2. The T2 is expected to be launched in the second half of 2007. Going by Sun’s press release, the new 64-threaded processor will have twice the performance of T1 within the same power envelope. Logically this looks like an eight-core CPU.

The IA-64 story

As of now the only competition to RISC is the Itanium IA-64 architecture.
The Itanium 2 has managed to find its own niche. Available in three flavours (DP, MP and low voltage), Itanium 2 is at present backed by HP and SGI

As of now the only competition to RISC is the Itanium IA-64 architecture. The Itanium 2 has managed to find its own niche. Available in three flavours (DP, MP and low voltage), Itanium 2 is at present backed by HP and SGI.

Intel has a clear IA-64 roadmap and is betting on the recently launched Montecito. This dual core CPU is expected to have clock speeds from 1.4 GHz to 1.6 GHz. Meant to run on a 533 MHz FSB, the processors will have L3 cache in the range of 6 MB to 24 MB. The new CPUs are also expected to offer better power to performance than the earlier Itanium 2 versions. If this variant of the Itanium 2 catches on, it will be a turn of fortunes for Intel in the high-end server space.

 
     
- <Back to Top>-  
Untitled Document
 
Indian Express - Business Publications Division

Copyright 2001: Indian Express Newspapers (Mumbai) Limited (Mumbai, India). All rights reserved throughout the world. This entire site is compiled in Mumbai by the Business Publications Division (BPD) of the Indian Express Newspapers (Mumbai) Limited. Site managed by BPD.