IBM Unveils Industry’s First Systems that Rewrite Economics of ‘Industry-Standard’ Computing

All-new class of x86 systems break constraints of 30-year technology design; can slash costs by reducing server sprawl

Select a topic or year

ARMONK, N.Y. - 02 Mar 2010: IBM (NYSE:IBM) today introduced the first systems that shatter technical barriers to offer dramatically more scalable, workload-tuned computing on the x86 platform. The company’s new eX5 servers are the result of a three-year engineering effort to improve the economics of operating enterprise-sized, x86-based systems.

The eX5 portfolio marks IBM’s second family of 2010 systems designed for a new generation of demanding workloads and to significantly reduce costs of existing IT infrastructure. They are being previewed today at the CeBIT trade show in Germany and will be officially available later this month and throughout the year. 

The new systems ride a wave of market share growth for IBM. IBM gained more revenue share than any of the major x86 server vendors in each quarter of 2009 and now holds nearly 20 percent share -- a 3.5 point year-over-year gain, according to IDC. IBM also significantly outperformed the blade market in 4Q09, recording 64 percent revenue growth in blades and gaining 5.7 points, according to IDC. (1) 

IBM System x3850 X5 with MAX 5 memory scaling technology

IBM System x3850 X5 with MAX 5 memory scaling technology

An Engineering First Alters Economics of x86; Offers Dramatic New Memory Scale

Drawing on decades of experience in enterprise systems design and silicon packaging, IBM engineers have radically expanded the capabilities of the x86 platform by achieving an engineering first -- decoupling memory from its traditional, tightly bound place alongside the server’s processor, thereby eliminating the need to buy another server to support growing memory-intensive workloads.  This all-new class of x86-based systems offers six times the memory scalability available today (2), helping to flatten the ever-rising cost of operating industry-standard data centers. 

For example, the amount of data ingested by today’s average web-based workload doubles every year, increasing costs and straining resources. Users have traditionally dealt with the deluge by using the only method available with industry-standard platforms -- throwing more servers at the problem, which furthers sprawl and increases power and management costs. Today, typical x86 servers are only being utilized at 10% of capacity due to a 30-year-old architecture that locks processor and memory capacity together. 

Acxiom Corp. is a leader in interactive marketing services and early user of eX5 systems. The company counts among its clients seven of the top ten retail banks and nine of the top ten auto makers. Acxiom analyzes massive amounts of rapidly ballooning consumer data on behalf of its clients – four petabytes one year ago; seven petabytes just six months ago; and more than ten petabytes of data today. Acxiom now has 22,500 servers. 

“The IBM eX5 systems are game changers,” says Acxiom CIO David Guzman.  “We’ve been able to double our virtualization capacity, dropping our software licensing costs. The price/performance equation is extraordinarily compelling, with five times the performance at a fraction of the cost. Moreover, there is a positive impact on all of the other key components of IT cost -- space, power, labor, maintenance. The concrete results of this next generation machine are exciting, and the roadmap has 'knock-your-socks-off' vision.” 

The eX5 systems take advantage of integration with IBM middleware to create a highly virtualized environment that can give users a flexible, highly scalable system that can reduce the number of servers needed by half while cutting storage costs 97% (3) and licensing fees by 50% (4). 

 IBM Chip Unleashes Extreme Memory 

A unique IBM silicon innovation allows processors on eX5 systems to access extended memory very quickly, an industry first and a leap forward that delivers the largest memory capacity in the industry. The IBM Enterprise X-Architecture chip is in its fifth generation with eX5 and leverages decades of IBM experience in integrating microelectronics to create first-of-a-kind silicon solutions. 

Independent memory scaling technology, called MAX 5, offers six times more memory than is available across the industry today, which can allow clients to run 82% more "virtual servers" for the same license costs (5) and reduce middleware and application expenses dramatically. Clients running a Microsoft database can cut their license costs by 50% with eX5 (6). 

eX5 Breakthroughs Packaged in Blades and Racks To Meet Variety of Workloads & Price Points 

IBM will introduce three ultra-scalable eX5 systems in 2010 -- the four-processor IBM System x3850 X5, the BladeCenter HX5 and the System x3690 X5, an entry-priced server capable of enterprise-class operation that will become the most powerful two-processor server on the market. 

In addition to MAX5, IBM’s new eX5 systems feature additional breakthroughs that can improve the performance, cost and flexibility for x86 workloads: 

 IBM's Systems Director software management suite has been upgraded to support eX5 technology and will allow users to pre-configure servers, remotely re-purpose systems and set up automatic updates and recoveries. In addition, IBM is planning to offer simplified Lab Services to help clients migrate to eX5 systems and maximize virtualization and database performance. 

IBM Global Financing, the lending and leasing arm of IBM can help new and existing System x customers step up to the new X5 technology with flexible financing offerings that include the upgrade, take-out and disposal of existing leased and owned servers regardless of manufacturer. 

Coinciding with the launch of eX5, IBM’s Global Technology Services (GTS) is announcing a new approach to delivering implementation services for server and storage products. Among the new offerings IBM is introducing are: IBM Implementation Services for System x - BladeCenter or System x remote implementation and IBM Implementation Serivces for System x - Remote ServicePac for IBM Systems Director. Initially available in the U.S. and Canada with plans to expand to the rest of the world later in the year, these remotely delivered, lower price point services help clients optimize system performance and reduce time to value. 

For more information on eX5, visit For more information on IBM System x, go to

# # # 

1. Share measured in factory revenue according to IDC. See

2. The maximum amount of memory for the current generation IBM system is 256GB. The new eX5 version with MAX5 attached is 1536GB, which is six times more memory.

3. IBM eXFlash technology would eliminate the need for a client to purchase two entry-level servers and 80 JBODs to support a 240,000 IOPs database environment, saving $670,000 in server and storage acquisition costs.

4. IBM will offer a two-socket eX5 system with MAX5 and 64 dimms capable of supporting 320 virtual machines. Users of competitive systems would have to purchase a four-socket system to support a comparable amount of virtual machines and pay 50 percent more licensing costs. Based on sizing information performed in the IBM performance lab.

5. Comparison of a competitive two-socket system with 18 dimms capable of supporting 175 virtual machines vs. an IBM two-socket eX5 system with MAX5 and 64 dimms capable of supporting 320 virtual machines. Based on sizing information performed in the IBM performance lab.

6. A 1,000 user SQL Server 2008 database will cost $50,000 on a two-socket eX5 system. IBM is expected to be the only vendor to deliver a two-socket system in this space, therefore users of competitive systems will have to purchase a four-socket server to run a 1,000 user SQL server database and pay $100,000. Pricing based on Microsoft List Pricing as of January 2010. Pricing model used is per processor licensing which is based on $24,999 per physical socket on the server (logical cores are not counted).

7. Each eXFlash replaces 80 JBODs, each of which includes multiple disks and other components that all require cabling. 

All statements regarding IBM's future direction and intent are subject to change or withdrawal without notice, and represent goals and objectives only.

Related resources

Site links Images

IBM will introduce three ultra-scalable eX5 systems in 2010 -- the four-processor IBM System x3850 X5, the BladeCenter HX5 and the System x3690 X5, an entry-priced server that will be the most powerful two-processor server on the market.

MAX 5 is an industry-first technology from IBM that decouples memory from the processor, eliminating the need to buy another server to support memory-intensive workloads and dramatically changing the economics of the x86 server market.

A forthcoming IBM eX5 system outfitted with cutting edge MAX 5 memory technology in a slim, 1U "drawer" that packs 600 percent more memory than is available today.

PDF documents