Apple debuts fastest-ever Xserve

Turns to 'Nehalem' Xeon CPUs for retooled 1U server, boasts 2x performance

Apple Inc. Tuesday retooled its Xserve server, which now runs Intel's "Nehalem" Xeon processors and boasts a new system architecture that doubles the performance of its predecessor, the company said.

Tuesday's Xserve refresh, which had been accidentally revealed by Apple's Hong Kong online store last week, was the first since January 2008, when Apple shifted the 1U rack-mounted server to the 45nm Penryn-family of Xeon CPUs.

"It was necessary," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research Inc. "They have to adopt the latest technology, just like the other server makers."

IBM Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Inc. introduced their Xeon 5500-based servers last week.

The Xserve, which starts at the same US$2,999 as its base-line predecessor, comes with an unlimited client license edition of Leopard Server, includes three drive bays and can be equipped with up to 12GB of memory. For $2,999, buyers get a server running a single 2.26-GHz quad-core Xeon 5500 -- formerly known by the Nehalem code name -- 3GB of 1066-MHz DDR3 ECC memory, a 160GB SATA drive and an Nvidia GeForce GT 120 graphics card with 256MB of memory.

An eight-core, two-processor system with the same 2.26-GHz Xeon 5500 chips costs $3,599, but customers can configure the server with a pair of 2.66-GHz or 2.93-GHz eight-core Xeon 5500 CPUs for an extra $1,400 or $2,600, respectively. Eight-core systems can be packed with up to 24GB of RAM.

A new option lets buyers outfit the Xserve with a $500 2.5-in. 128GB solid-state drive (SSD), which takes over boot responsibilities but does not occupy one of the three drive bays.

As it has for several months in marketing the consumer lines, Apple also touted the new Xserve's environmental and energy traits. The server uses PVC-free internal cables and components, contains no brominated flame retardants and draws 19% less power at idle than the previous model, said Apple.

"The Xserve helps them exactly where they already have a toe-hold -- in the very small businesses that can't afford an IT guy of their own," said Gottheil.

Last month, Apple debuted the Xeon 5500 and Xeon 3500 processors in its refreshed Mac Pro line.

The Xserve is shipping now and available through the company's online store and reseller channel.

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