IBM's second generation dual-processor server will begin shipping next week.

The eServer 326, based on AMD's Opteron processor, will be IBM's first product specifically designed to support the upcoming dual-core Opterons processors expected next year.

The server is designed to work with the new Opteron's technical wiring, thermal and power specifications, said Alex Yost, director of eServer systems at IBM. "This gives customers a little bit of investment protection so that when dual-core processors become available, they can roll them out," he said.

Dual-core chips contain two separate processing units on each processor, which can speed up performance for certain types of applications. AMD began demonstrating its first dual-core Opteron processors late last month, and is engaged in a race with Intel to be the first company to ship dual-core chips on Intel's x86 instruction set.

But with dual-core Opterons approximately a year away, IBM's eServer 326 will essentially serve as an upgrade to IBM's other dual-processor 1U Opteron, the eServer 325, which will be gradually phased out, according to Yost. "We will have a three-to-four month transition period, and then we would expect all customers to transition over to the 326," he said.

The 326 will have two more memory sockets than the 325, allowing it to support 16GB of memory, compared with 12GB for the 325. It will also support as much as 320GB of storage using the SATA (serial advanced technology attachment) format, which is not supported by the 325.

Another new feature for the 326 is Calibrated Vectored Cooling, a technology borrowed from IBM's mainframe servers that improves air flow in the servers so they generate less heat.

Pricing for the 326 is in the same range as the 325, with entry level systems priced starting at $2,189. Though initial shipments will begin next week, the new servers will be generally available by 15 October, IBM said.