IBM Launches Sixth Generation EXA Solutions

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  January 16, 2014

IBM announced the sixth generation of its enterprise X-Architecture (X6) for System x and PureSystems servers which the company said would provide industry-leading improvements in the performance and economics of x86-based systems for analytics and cloud. The X6 architecture represents IBM’s continuing R&D investment and industry leadership in x86-based systems, and is specifically designed to provide new levels of performance and resiliency for enterprise applications.

The company noted that x86-based systems are the first choice for many organizations that are adopting analytics for greater business insight and moving critical workloads like ERP, analytics and databases to the cloud for increased efficiency and lower costs. For memory-hungry applications, X6 delivers three times the scalable memory of current competitors’ and IBM x86-based systems to support cloud and analytics.

IBM described X6-based solutions as:

The X6 architecture is:

  • Fast: Integrated, DIMM-based eXFlash memory-channel storage—an industry first—provides up to 12.8 terabytes of ultrafast flash storage close to the processor, increasing application performance by providing the lowest system write latency available, essential for analytics applications.
  • Agile: The X6’s modular, scalable design supports multiple generations of CPUs—another industry first—and can reduce acquisition costs, up to 28 percent in comparison to one competitive offering. [
  • Resilient: Features that can help extend cloud delivery models to mission-critical applications include increased memory and storage, autonomous self-healing CPU and memory systems and Upward Integration Modules.

IBM server models supported by the X6 architecture currently include the System x3850 X6 four-socket system, System x3950 X6 eight-socket system, and the IBM Flex System x880 scalable compute nodes. IBM also is introducing the System x3650 M4 BD storage server, a two-socket rack server supporting up to 14 drives delivering up to 56 terabytes of high-density storage—the largest available in the industry. It provides 46 percent greater performance than previous comparable IBM System x servers and is ideally suited for distributed scale-out of big data workloads.

The Pitch

IBM’s sixth generation Enterprise X-Architecture extends its leadership position in mission critical x86 and emerging cloud and analytics applications.

Final Analysis

Launched 2001, IBM’s Enterprise X Architecture (EXA) was designed to extend technologies and features from the company’s signature System z mainframe and Power Systems families to its x86-based System x servers. As a result of this prescient move, IBM assumed early, clear leadership in delivering Industry Standard servers with resiliency, availability and serviceability (RAS) capabilities more commonly associated with enterprise-class systems.

That was a radical move when x86-based hardware was ridiculed and resisted by conventional enterprise IT leading lights, including Sun Microsystems. But by moving proactively, IBM outpaced competitors and enabled its customers and partners to gain critical momentum and advantages with scale-out technologies that have since become a major force across the global IT marketplace.

More importantly, IBM’s EXA strategy has long been designed to anticipate and address business computing problems before they become commonplace. That enables clients to successfully adapt to changing IT requirements and market dynamics well-before their competitors. But is also allows them to reconsider and reimagine how they use IT by making scalable data center solutions more efficient and easier to manage.

These capabilities are also common in IBM’s new X6 solutions. That’s a critical point for customers looking to meet today’s business needs and prepare for tomorrow’s challenges. But just as the five previous generations of EXA solutions permitted IBM to establish and maintain clear leadership in 4-way and above x86-based server sales, this latest generation of IBM EXA extends the company’s value proposition considerably in new areas.

For example, IBM’s eXFlash memory-channel storage should enable customers to capture the maximum value offered by innovative new flash technologies to enhance cloud, analytics and other virtualization-dependent workloads. The new solutions also include capabilities that expand the already considerable reliability of IBM EXA technologies, making X6 appropriate for organizations of every sort and applications and processes of every kind.

In essence, IBM’s new X6 platform has the I/O performance and memory scalability necessary to support and virtualize large, intensive business applications, including the most mission critical workloads. By providing these and other “future proofing” features, the company has considerably extended the continually evolving capabilities of x86-based systems and made IBM’s X6 solutions intelligent, robust and secure investments for its midmarket and enterprise customers.

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