IBM Updates x86 Server Line Despite Sell-Off Plans

M5 portfolio upgraded with latest Intel Xeon E5-2600 v3 chips, boosts performance, energy efficiency across variety of enterprise workloads.

John Rath

September 11, 2014

3 Min Read
IBM Updates x86 Server Line Despite Sell-Off Plans
IBM’s latest M5 x86 servers, now Lenovo products. (Photo: IBM)

IBM launched a new line of M5 x86 servers earlier this week to support a range of enterprise workloads and computing environments. This will likely be the last series designed by IBM, as it announced at the beginning of the year that Lenovo would acquire its x86 server business for $2.3 billion, and just recently the deal was cleared by the U.S. government.

The M5 portfolio is a standard line of x86 servers for the enterprise, but IBM hopes to expand the use case opportunities with additions like IBM Trusted Platform Assurance security features. The M5 platform comes in configurable models of rack and tower servers, dense systems, blades and integrated systems.

IBM may be getting out of the x86 server business, but it continues to command second-largest share of the global server market. IBM made $2.8 billion in revenue from server sales in the second quarter of this year, while HP, whose market share is the largest, made about $3.2 billion, according to Gartner.

All new M5 servers will come equipped with the new Intel Xeon E5-2600 v3 processors and energy-saving TruDDR4 memory. The servers can come loaded with up to 1.5 TB of memory and range from 1U to 5U in height.

Bill Parker, account manager at Logicalis, said, "In today's environment of ever-growing workloads and fewer IT resources, customers are demanding the highest levels of reliability, efficiency and automation. We look forward to sharing more with our customers about the increased levels of security, reliability and efficiency architected into these new systems."

IBM says M5 servers add hardware support for the latest version of the Trusted Platform Module (TPM 2.0) to enable more encryption algorithms and Windows support. A new Secure Firmware Rollback feature prohibits any unauthorized updates of previous firmware versions.

IBM made Energy efficiency gains with the M5 series as well, noting new features such as extended operating temperature ranges, dual fan zones and active/standby mode for power supplies. One of the new products, the M5 NeXtScale system, is a direct-water-cooled server.

Building on the M5 series, IBM also launched several tailored enterprise solutions. A System x solution for VMware VSAN, a System x solution for Microsoft Fast Track DW for SQL Server 2014, SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure with Atlantis Computing ILIO and IBM Flex System solution for Microsoft Hyper-V were all announced.

The deceptive x86 growth numbers

x86 servers are the only server category that showed year-over-year revenue growth for the second quarter, according to Gartner. RISK/Itanium Unix servers fell 23.2 percent, and the category made up primarily of mainframes (a big business for IBM) fell 2.2 percent.

It is telling that IBM is second in the market by revenue but third by the amount of units shipped (behind HP and Dell). It means the company is making more revenue from selling fewer big expensive systems than from selling lots of commodity x86 servers, which explains its urge to divest the x86 business.

Total worldwide server revenue in the second quarter increased 1.4 percent year over year. The other companies with biggest market share by revenue are Oracle and Cisco.

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