IBM releases first information about upcoming x3650 M2 and x3550 M2

x3650m2A few days ago i bought an i7 920 for my computer at home. The performance is absolutely astonishing, compared to the AMD X2 CPU i had before. Especially VMs perform very well on it.

The first Nehalem-based servers have already been released, and as always IBM is a quiet compared to other server manufacturers. However, today while looking at some support documents i saw that IBM finally offers downloads of IBM x3650 M2 and IBM x3550 M2 documentation:

x3650 M2 Installation Guide
x3650 M2 Service Guide
x3550 M2 Installation Guide
x3550 M2 Service Guide
IMM User Guide (RSA II Successor)

All Documents on Scribd

I’ve now skimmed through the documents a few times and found several things worth mentioning – please note that i haven’t seen the actual hardware, so there may be mistakes here. If i’m aware of the, i’ll correct them of course.

RSA II Replaced by IMM

The RSA II adapter has been succeded by the IMM. The IMM is integrated into both the x3650 M2 and the x3550 M2, but certain features need to be enabled by purchasing a “Media Key”. This is similar to how HP handles this issue, except with a physical key. The Media key enables additional features, as described in the IMM User Guide:

In addition, IMM Premium has the following features:
- Remote presence, including the remote control of a server
- Operating-system failure screen capture and display through the Web interface
- Remote disk, which enables the attachment of a diskette drive, CD/DVD drive, USB flash drive, or disk image to a server

More Disks

The x3650 M2 will support up to 12 hard disks. The x3550 M2 will support up to 6 hard disks. Only 2.5″ of course. I currently didn’t see much mention of SSD, but i’m sure both these machines will see SSDs during their lifecycle.

There are also several changes regarding the hard disk controller. The Onboard ServeRAID 8k made by Adaptec is gone. It will be replaced by MR10i and BR10i ServeRAID Adapters, made by LSI Logic. For more details about those controllers, see the ServeRAID Quick Reference. These adapters will fit into a special slot, and are no longer fully integrated into the system board.

This is a good thing – RAID controller troubles in the x3550 and x3650 always meant replacement of the system board, which could be problematic because it changed the various IDs of the system (most notably the MAC adresses).

More Memory

Nehalem brings CPUs with On-Die memory controllers to Intel-based servers. If you’ve never handled AMD servers before, this means a few changes.

* Memory is local to the CPU, meaning you will need both CPUs if you want to use the full 16 memory slots.
* Nehalem features a triple-channel memory subsystem, making memory placement interesting
* If you’ve wondered how triple-channel and 16 slots works, see the graphic to the right

More Ethernet ports

The x3650 M2 comes with 4 Gigabit ethernet ports. The x3550 M2 with two, but an option for an additional two without requiring a full pci-e slot. This is especially good when you’re using virtualization and need to segregate hosts or need the extra bandwidth.

UEFI & other features

UEFI is the successor to the common BIOS. This will get interesting – i have no real idea what to expect from this. I only know that WS08 supports UEFI boot directly, and that IBM will provide emulation for legacy operating systems.

There’s also an in-system USB port for running a Hypervisor directly from flash. The system also features an integrated TPM module, which can be used together with Bitlocker to provide full disk encryption in physically insecure servers.

An important Whitepaper from IBM about Transitioning to UEFI is also available.

NOS support

Both new systems have also appeared in IBMs NOS support list. While full Windows support is offered, it looks like VMware will not be supported, at least initially.

Support for high performance graphics cards

The system board lists an 8 pin power connector for high performance graphics cards. The parts list also lists NVIDIA FX1700 and NVIDIA FX570. This might be needed for CUDA or similar applications.


I want one. According to my sources, they should be available for sale starting on the 21st of April. As of today, the System x New Generation information page is finally online.


  1. New IBM x3650 M2? Remember these important things! » Lukas Beeler’s IT Blog » Blog Archive:

    [...] you’ve never heard about the x3650 M2, i suggest you to read my introduction post [...]

  2. TareQ:

    this is so great
    thank you the excellent information
    but i have few notes
    1. Till now x3650 M2 does not support internal Tape Drive
    2. x3650 comes with two ethernet ports
    3. I think it will support VMware

    anyways it is really great information you have there
    thanks again

  3. Harjeet Sandhu:

    Thank you very much for the information. I have a question about the network drops required for this server.

    Please let me know if my assumptions are correct:

    2 Standard Ports( Dual Port-could be teamed)
    1 Management Port
    1 Virtual Media Key ( I believe it needs a network drop)

    Please let me know if my understanding is correct.

  4. Lukas Beeler:

    The VMK is just that – key. It utilizes the management port. So you need only three.

  5. Nebojsa Trpkovic:

    So, with all memory slots populated or memory maxed-out, it cannot run in triple-channel mode?

  6. Nathan:

    If you refer to the diagram above, you’ll see that there are three slots per channel for only the first two channels of each processor. The third channel of each CPU has two slots. Therefore fully populated the third channel will only hold two DIMMs. This is a capacity statement, generaly speaking you want to distribte your DIMMs so that you fill all the channels with one DIMM before adding more to the same channel.. the memory subsystem is most efficient when each channel is equally populated (and you will have faster bus speeds possible with less DIMMs per channel).

    From a performance standpoint, populating three DIMMs-per-channel drops your max memory speed to 800MHz, so many applications will try to balance capacity and bandwith by populating two DIMMs in each channel to get the more desireable 1066 memory speed.


  7. Franz Simon:

    I need to know if the X3550 server with Windows 2003 32bit, can run FoxDos.

    Thanks, Franz

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