But Wait, There's More
Intel Launches "Nocona" Xeon DPs for Workstations
As expected, Intel will today roll out the first of the 64-bit versions of the Xeon processors that it promised to deliver to the market in February. The "Nocona" variant of the Xeon DP processor will have the Extended Memory 64-bit Technology that was embedded into the "Prescott" Pentium 4 core upon which Nocona is based turned on.
It is widely believed that Intel reversed engineered the X86-64 instruction set from the hybrid 32-bit/64-bit Opteron processors from Advanced Micro Devices, and is launching the Noconas in workstations and soon in servers to try to blunt the attack that AMD has made on Intel's corporate computing turf.
Intel had promised back in February that it would ship the Nocona chips, which are built using a 90 nanometer chip process, before the end of the second quarter, and it is just squeaking by on that deadline as it gets the first chips and related "Tumwater" chipsets out the door for workstations on June 28. Back in February, Intel said that the Noconas would run at 3.2 GHz, have 1 MB of L3 cache, and will sport an 800 MHz frontside bus. The Noconas might be running tight up against their launch window, but Intel has been able to crank the clock speeds from 2.8 GHz through 3 GHz, 3.2 GHz, 3.4 GHz, and on up to 3.6 GHz in the workstation versions of the new Xeon DPs.
In addition to the 64-bit processing support (and the pipe going out to memory is only 64-bits wide, by the way), Nocona sports a lot of new features, including the SpeedStep power management technology that Intel developed for its Pentium M and Centrino mobile processors. SpeedStep varies the voltage and frequency of the processor, stepping it down as software is asking the processor to do less work, thereby eliminating some of the power consumption and heat exhaust that a regular Xeon chip has. This is particularly important in a chip like the Xeon, which has a lot of transistors and burns a lot of juice.
The Tumwater chipset for workstations, known as the E7525, supports 400MHz DDR2 memory as well, which consumes anywhere from 30 percent to 40 percent less energy than DDR1 memory running at 266 MHz or 333 MHz, respectively. According to Alan Priestley, strategic marketing manager for Intel's enterprise solutions in EMEA, the Nocona chip can step down from 3.6 GHz at 1.4 volts and dissipating 100 watts down to 2.8 GHz running at 1.2 volts and dissipating 70 watts. Other improvements in system design can reduce power consumption for a typical workstation, which eats anywhere from 300 watts to 400 watts, by around 28 percent, he says.
The Tumwater chipset and Nocona chips also enable the first Intel machines to support PCI Express, which offers 8 GB/sec of total bandwidth between the memory controller, graphics processor, and Nocona processor. For graphics, the PCI Express link will be comprised of the X16 16-lane bi-directional point-to-point bus, which will offer two times the bandwidth as AGP8X graphics subsystem in current Xeon workstations. The Tumwater chipset has an aggregate I/O bandwidth of 6.4 GB/sec, and supports up to 16 GB of main memory (two channels, four DIMMs per channel). Without using the 64-bit memory extensions or the X16 graphics, a top-of-the-line 3.6 GHz Nocona workstation benchmarked by Intel has run workstation applications 30 percent faster than the current 32-bit Xeons running at 3.2 GHz. This is roughly the same performance benefit that AMD has been saying that Opterons give over Xeons running 32-bit X86 applications.
Pricing for the Nocona chip and chipset were not available before today's launch, but the word on the street is that the Tumwater chipset will cost around $100 in 1,000-unit quantities, and that prices for the Nocona chips will range from $209 for the 2.8 GHz chip to $455 for the 3.2 GHz version to $851 for the 3.6 GHz version. As is always the case with an new Intel chip, that faster 3.6 GHz part will be scarce as hen's teeth as the company ramps up production. Full volume shipments will probably be in swing by the middle to the end of the third quarter.
As for the server version of the Nocona chip and its associated "Lindenhurst" chipset, mum's the word. But the word on the street is that we can expect to see very similar configurations for servers sometime in the middle of summer. Nocona workstations and servers will obviously support Linux as well as Windows, the open source BSD strains of Unix, and SCO UnixWare and OpenServer.
Disk Array Sales Up 6.5% in First Quarter, Says IDC
According to market research performed by IDC, the worldwide external disk array market surged 6.5 percent to hit $3.5 billion in sales in the first quarter of 2004. Total disk sales (including internal arrays) grew more modestly at a rate of 3.5 percent, to $5.1 billion, which suggests that the market is shifting away from internal disks to external units. This is ironic, given that the shift to internal systems began about a decade ago as vendors tried to keep account control by integrating disk arrays with their servers. In terms of total disk storage sold, Hewlett-Packard was the dominant seller, with $1.2 billion in sales, but its revenues were down 6.1 percent. IBM was second in the IDC ranking, with just over $1 billion in sales, with revenues up 11.2 percent. As external arrays are taking off again, EMC's share of the market went up 26 percent, to $707 million. Dell and Hitachi had $351 million and $348 million in disk sales in the first quarter. Sun was number six, with $309 million, while all other vendors together accounted for $1.2 billion in sales, or 23.3 percent of the market.
Like, No Kidding: IT Morale Is Low
IT consultancy META Group has just finished putting together its "2004 IT Staffing and Compensation Guide," and Maria Shafer, author of the study, says that low morale in IT shops is reaching a critical point. As we all know, this whole "do more with less" approach to IT (indeed across all businesses) has put a lot of strain on work and home relationships. Offshoring and outsourcing, the uncertainty of the business environment, and heavy workloads are all contributing to morale issues. Of the 650 companies that META surveyed for the study, 72 percent said that low IT employee morale is a serious issue. To that end, 45 percent of those companies have begun implementing employee recognition programs (if you can't give money, give praise), and another 40 percent have given employees a chance to get some training to boost their moral as well as their skills (this thing tends to cut both ways). Only 4 percent of companies surveyed are giving cash incentives to demonstrate the value of the IT employees to the company.
Red Hat, Oracle Partner for Asia/Pacific Push
Database maker Oracle and commercial Linux distributor Red Hat have teamed up to attack the Asia/Pacific market by establishing an applications porting center in Singapore. Oracle and Red Hat have ponied up $13 million to create the LEAP Center, a clever acronym that is short for Linux Enterprise Application Porting and, considering this is a big jump for a lot of companies and a leap of faith to boot, LEAP is certainly an appropriate name for such a center. The LEAP Center has the full set of Oracle database and middleware products running on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3.0, and allows independent software vendors and systems integrators to bring in their applications or those of their customers to port them to Linux, test them, and tune them. The center opened this week.
VMware Releases Experimental Support for 64-bit X86
The VMware division of EMC announced last week that an experimental update to its VMware Workstation virtual machine partitioning for workstations and the similar GSX Server partitioning for servers is now available supporting Opteron and Xeon-64 machines. Specifically, GSX Server 3.1 and Workstation 4.5.2 will be released this week in an experimental state with support for the 64-bit versions of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3 and Novell SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 and the 64-bit architectures embodied in the Advanced Micro Devices Opteron and Intel Xeon with Extended Memory 64 Technology.
VMware's expertise is on X86 architectures, and until Itanium takes off, EMC is not prepared to invest in supporting Itanium. The 64-bit experimental support for VMware partitions also provides support for the beta version of Microsoft Windows Server 2003. Both GSX Server 3.1 and Workstation 4.5.2 are available as free updates to existing customers who want to run in 64-bit mode. Right now, the 64-bit support is an all-or-nothing proposition: customers cannot yet mix 64-bit and 32-bit operating systems as guest environments on 64-bit machines, but this is a feature that VMware is working on for the final release of the product. VMware has not yet said when the commercial support for 64-bits is expected.
BindView Adds Linux Support for System Management Tools
Companies set their own IT and business standards, and governments set standards, too. Keeping track of all of these standards and then measuring whether you are in compliance with standards is a big pain. BindView, a security and policy compliance software maker based in Houston, has been selling a piece of software called Compliance Center to assist with this task. Until now, BindView only supported Microsoft Windows NT, 2000, and 2003 server platforms and Windows XP desktop platforms. But last week, BindView announced that Compliance Center can now run on Red Hat and Novell SuSE Linuxes as well as on Solaris, AIX, HP-UX Unixes.
In addition to the general support for Linux and Unix, BindView announced a module for the Solaris version of Compliance Center, called Security Essentials for Solaris Technical Standards Pack, which provides a set of "best practices" guidelines for locking down Solaris, against which Solaris shops can measure their own configurations. No word on when a similar program will be available for Linux.
MKS Guarantees Success in Porting Apps to Windows from Linux
Organizations interested in migrating their Linux (or Unix) applications to Windows can get a free one-hour consultation with a porting expert if they try out a porting tool. MKS last week announced "Guaranteed Success," which provides those who evaluate MKS Toolkit for Enterprise Developers with a free hour-long consultation with an MKS porting consultant, along with three more one-hour sessions if they license the software. The MKS Toolkit for Enterprise Developers (formerly NuTCRACKER) is collection of APIs, utilities, and a runtime environment that allows developers to recompile C, C++, and Fortran code as native Windows executables that look and act like regular Windows applications. MKS is also offering a partial refund on the cost of the MKS Toolkit for Enterprise Developers, which goes for $5,000 for a single-user license, if the migration doesn't work within 90 days.