IBM Introduces Technology to Enhance Memory Performance

New version of rack-dense xSeries 330 server shipped

IBM Corp. this week began shipping an enhanced version of its rack-dense xSeries 330 server with a new technology that Big Blue claims makes the system perform as if it had twice the amount of memory it actually has installed.

IBM plans to eventually extend the technology, called Memory expansion Technology or MXT, to other servers in the xSeries, which is IBM's line of Intel-based systems.

"It's a new chipset that IBM Research developed," says Jeff Benc, director of IBM xSeries marketing. "A new memory controller and an L3 cache work together to effectively double the amount of usable memory."

The hardware controller employs an algorithm to encode data in main memory, using half the space a traditional memory controller would use, Benc explains. The L3 high-speed cache, meanwhile, sits next to the processor to feed the most frequently used data to the chip. "You can install 512 MB of memory and get a GB of memory [in certain applications]," Benc says.

IBM will charge a few hundred dollars extra for xSeries 330s with the memory-enhancing technology. On balance, customers will still pay hundreds of dollars less than they would for machines with more physical memory, according to IBM.

The xSeries 330 is IBM's 1U rack-dense server, which also features IBM's cable chaining technology that allows each server to connect to the one above and below in a daisy-chain configuration rather than having each server in the rack connect to a KVM switchbox.

IBM has licensed MXT to chipset manufacturer ServerWorks, but Benc estimates that IBM has about four months of lead time before other vendors can bring out systems based on a ServerWorks MXT chipset.