While Moore's Law is cramming more and more computing power into a processor socket, not every customer needs a quad-core "Nehalem EP" two socket box to run their applications. Selling into the SMB channel with its System x server line has been tough for IBM in the past three quarters, particularly because in a tough economy SMBs start shopping more on price and less on performance.
That's why Big Blue, which has been struggling against Hewlett-Packard and Dell, has announced new entry tower and rack servers based on older and less costly processors than Intel's current quad-core chips. The System x3200 M2 is a single-socket tower server that supports the dual-core Pentium E5300, the Core 2 Duo E7400, the Xeon E3110, and the Xeon X3330 processors.
The machine has 512 MB of DDR2 main memory standard, which is just about enough to load Windows, and it maxes out at 8 GB. The tower has seven drive bays, which can house hot-swap SATA or SA drives in 3.5-inch form factors and has two PCI-X slots, two PCI-Express slots (one x4 and one x8), and a single Gigabit Ethernet NIC on the board. A RAID 5 disk controller is optional. In a base configuration on IBM's online store - an x3200 M2 with a 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo E4600 and 2 GB of memory (not the 512 MB of base memory in the spec sheets, because that is not a practical amount of main memory) - the machine costs $957.
The System x3250 M2 is a rack-based single-socket server that comes in a 1U form factor and supports Intel's Celeron 440, dual-core Pentium E5300, and Core 2 Duo E7400 processors. (The Xeon E3110 and X3330 are not sold in this skinny box, apparently, but IBM's online Web store shows the quad-core X3320 and X3350 are available for the machine even though it is not on the spec sheet).
This machine has a SATA controller and sports two 3.5-inch SATA drives. It has two PCI-Express x8 expansion slots and two Gigabit Ethernet ports. The x3250 M2 comes with 1 GB of DDR2 memory standard and expands to 8 GB. With a 2 GHz Celeron 440 and no disks, the x3250 M2 costs $691.
Both new entry x64 servers will be available on June 19. Both machines are certified to run the usual SMB suspects in terms of operating systems, including Microsoft's Windows Server 2008 Web, Standard, and Enterprise Editions as well as Red Hat's Enterprise Linux 4 and 5 and Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 and 10. Windows Server 2003 is not on the list of certified operating systems for the rack-based x3250, but it is the default preloaded operating system on the tower x3200 M2 according to IBM's announcement letter, but online, RHEL and SUSE are the only options when you go to buy the box. Go figure. ®