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.
it comes to the server spectrums 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 RISCs marketshare.
Fall of the dice
This fall in the marketshare is indicated clearly by IDCs Asia/Pacific
Quarterly Enterprise Server Tracker, Q4 2005, February 2006 release. The tracker
has pointed out the x86 servers increasing dominance over the RISC-Unix
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 Magazines 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 serversadd 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
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. Todays
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 serversadd 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
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 HPs 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
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 IBMs focus is on the clock speed race, Suns
is on higher thread processing capability and power-performance. This is the
USP that Sun uses to back its UltraSparc T1 servers.
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
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
processorsthe UltraSparc T2. The T2 is expected to be launched in the
second half of 2007. Going by Suns 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
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.