Noodling on Nehalem
After the splashy launch of Intel’s new
chip architecture, many questions remain
ow that “Nehalem” is no longer under significant amount of vendor lock-in.
Intel’s hat, after its March 30 launch, The funny thing about hardware is that it is
there are a couple of housekeeping physical. To take advantage of the new perfor-
issues to take care of. mance-enhancing features, actual new hardware
First of all, what’s up with Intel’s Itanium plat- will need to be purchased and installed.
form? IT managers who want to implement Xeon 5500
The thorny question of Itanium-based servers series-based systems will need to take a close look at
came up at the Nehalem launch, held at Intel head- lease expiration and full depreciation dates of exist-
quarters in Santa Clara, Calif. Intel’s Pat Gelsinger, ing equipment. Otherwise, all the money saved in
senior vice president and general manager of the reducing utility costs and increasing performance
Digital Enterprise Group, said Nehalem—now could easily be lost. Fully populating a server with
officially known as the Xeon 5500 series—was the the 144GB of RAM that Intel currently puts forward
most important processor since the Pentium Pro, as the recommended maximum is a very large
which was announced nearly 10 years ago. capital cost compared with tricking out a Xeon 5400
Gelsinger also said that he series-based system.
expects not to make a similar As with any data center
‘AS WITH ANY DATA
announcement for another server purchase, the devil is in
10 years. Gelsinger did men- the details. In the case of the
CENTER SERVER PUR-
tion a couple of upcoming Xeon 5500 series, not all SKUs
milestones for the Itanium will come with simultaneous
CHASE, THE DEVIL IS
platform, but it was clear that multithreading, a feature that
IN THE DETAILS.’
the focus now and for the fore- will be advantageous to virtu-
seeable future is on Nehalem- alized applications. And how
based systems development. much effort will be required to retrofit apps to take
Speaking of the near future, much of Nehalem’s advantage of simultaneous multithreading?
whiz-bang power efficiency, compute productivity and With this kind of housekeeping comes consider-
virtual machine workload migration was made pos- able stirring up of settled dust. It appears VMware’s
sible using VMware’s ESX 4.0, which is still in beta. influence on chip design trumped that of Microsoft.
To keep this in perspective, it’s not likely that IT Or, more accurately, the design needs of virtualiza-managers will even begin to buy Xeon 5500-based tion and systems that run multiple OSes have been
systems in bulk until well after the general release of acknowledged in hardware. VMware is playing a
ESX 4.0. However, as I pointed out in my technical steering role in this drama. But as long as all hypervi-analysis of server virtualization on Xeon 5500 series sor vendors have meaningful access to the advances
CPUs (see story, Page 20), VMware will present the made possible in Intel’s—and AMD’s—chips, these
lowest-common-dominator processor in a VMware virtualization advances are welcomed advances.
VMotion cluster. So, when you’re ready to take In a couple of years, most of these housekeep-advantage of Nehalem’s Turbo mode, simultane- ing details will be tidied up, but for those IT
ous multithreading and double the addressable managers who are making strategic decisions
RAM (over previous generations), you will need to today, remember that behind all this chip inno-segregate Xeon 5500 series systems. vation is the next phase of data center imple-IT managers who are taking account of the mentation and application development. ´
significant changes in commodity server CPUs
should keep in mind that some of the choices Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached
made today and in the coming year will carry a at email@example.com.