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3/30/2009
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Fresh Crop Of Intel Nehalem Servers On Way

Dell, HP, IBM, Lenovo, and Sun are among the vendors launching products at the same time Intel officially introduces its latest Xeon server chips.

Major computer makers are making sure there's no shortage of servers powered by Intel's latest Nehalem processors, but despite the abundance, there's not a huge difference in hardware and buyers should pay closer attention to the software inside the systems.

Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Lenovo, and Sun Microsystems are among the vendors launching products at the same time Intel officially introduces Nehalem EP server processors, which are based on a new microarchitecture with an integrated memory controller for better performance. The Nehalem variant, known as Core i7, for high-end desktops and workstations was launched late last year.

Over the last week, vendors have been vying for media attention with embargoed news conferences and press releases to make the case for their respective products. But despite the many benchmarks vendors are showing to prove faster performance than competitors' systems, there's actually not a whole lot of difference on the hardware level, analysts say.

"We're getting down to literally microseconds of difference in terms of performance and power," Andi Mann, analyst for Enterprise Management Associates, told InformationWeek.

Nevertheless, all the vendors are claiming significant performance boosts over previous generations of servers, which make the latest products better for virtualization. This means IT managers can reduce the overall number of servers in a data center by running more business applications in a single system.

Where vendors have their best chance to differentiate their new products is in the software that ships with their servers, particularly the system management applications. Tools that ease the task of provisioning software across servers, provide notification when there's a problem, monitor power usage, and offer other management features are more likely to attract the attention of potential buyers.

That fact is not lost on the vendors. Hewlett-Packard on Monday introduced the ProLiant G6 line of 11 Nehalem EP-powered tower, rack, and blade servers, the largest ProLiant rollout ever.

Among the key system management features is energy efficiency. HP has added sensors across the line that automatically adjusts system components such as fans, memory, and input/output processing to the workload. In addition, IT managers can cap the power drawn by individual servers.

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