IBM is launching an x86-based rack-mounted server with an embedded virtualisation hypervisor built-in - probably based on an as-yet unannounced product from VMware.

The new System x3950 M2 server includes IBM's fourth generation of its home-grown chipset technology, X4, which also adds support for Intel quad-core processors. This will allow users to install virtualised server applications with no added steps, reckoned IBM.

IBM claimed that X4 is faster, more available and more efficient, as well as being virtualisation-friendly. An internal USB interface will accommodate chip-based or embedded virtualisation software preloaded on a 4GB USB flash storage device.

The new system also doubles memory slot capacity so the x3950 M2 will house up to 256GB of RAM -- four times the amount of memory in a single chassis compared to the System x3850, which is also aimed at the server consolidation via virtualisation market.

However, IBM's been sketchy about the details of this technology but the most likely provenance of the virtualisation system is a so-called VMware ESX Light, that can run within a server's firmware. Virtualisation software market leader VMware's annual partner and customer conference starts next week, when the product is strongly rumoured to be launched.

“IBM’s steadfast investment to design and build mainframe-inspired capabilities for industry-standard servers has helped to propel it to the industry leadership position in high-end x86 computing, making it easier for clients to adopt a virtualisation,” said James Northington, vice president and business line executive, IBM System x. "With X-Architecture, IBM successfully blended enterprise capabilities with the volume economies of x86 computing. With consistent investment in innovation, IBM is well-positioned to help clients optimise their datacentres for growth into the next decade."

IBM said the System x3950 M2 server would be available in volume in the fourth quarter of 2007.