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IBM engineers are looking to add high-end virtualization, greater scalability and enhanced I/O capabilities into the next generation of the company’s chipsets that run in many servers powered by Intel Corp.’s Xeon chips.

IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., is planning to roll out servers featuring the third generation of its EXA (Enterprise X Architecture) chipsets in early 2005, after Intel’s release of the Xeon MP processor, code-named Potomac, set for later this year.

IBM introduced the EXA chipsets—code named Summit—in 2000 as a way of bringing management and high-availability features found in its mainframe systems into its line of Intel-based xSeries servers, then called the Netfinity line. In the first two generations of EXA, those features included high-scalability and performance capabilities, as well as the means to work around failed memory and diagnose problems without having to bring the system down. This capability helped with planned outages for maintenance reasons.

The chipsets are used in IBM’s “scale-up” systems—from the four-way Xeon-based x360 to the 32-way x445—as opposed to “scale-out” systems such as blade servers, according to Tom Bradicich, chief technology office for the xSeries platform.

Currently, the chipsets can scale up to systems running 32 processors, in increments of four processors at a time. If a user is running a four-way server but needs to add processors, they can bring in another four-way server to create an eight-way system. If demand declines, the number of processors used can be reduced, breaking the eight-way systems into two four-processor servers.

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