AMD gaining more of the server's share

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IBM's top server executive is warming to Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron, eyeing the processor's business advantages and the successes Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems have had with it.

Bill Zeitler, senior vice president of IBM's systems and technology group, wouldn't comment on whether Big Blue plans to offer mainstream Opteron chips, but he indicated in an interview this week that the move would make sense.

"I don't want to speculate when and if we would expand our activities here, but there's no question HP and Sun have benefited by having a broader Opteron portfolio than we've had," Zeitler said. "There are a whole bunch of business considerations that would say we would have done better had we had a four-(processor) Opteron product."

Big Blue was the first of the four top-tier server makers to sell Opteron servers, but its models were geared only for the technical-computing niche. Later, it added blade servers that are better-suited to mainstream business computing. Zeitler said IBM was surprised by the demand for those products in the fourth quarter of 2005 but then had "very robust sales" of the blades in the first quarter of 2006.

IBM's warmer attitude puts more pressure on Dell, the lone top-tier server maker selling only Intel-based x86 servers. "Opteron's a great horse to ride. Sun and HP have done very well with it, and it's gotten the attention of IBM," said TechKnowledge Strategies analyst Mike Feibus. "You've got to wonder how long Dell can stay on the sidelines and watch."