IBMs Not Alone

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2004-03-01 Print this article Print

Still, IBM isnt alone. Other vendors are using the increasingly popular Linux as a way of expanding their low-end offerings. Sun Microsystems Inc., of Santa Clara, Calif., is using AMDs Opteron to create low-end systems that can run both Linux and Solaris x86, a move applauded by many Sun customers.

And the last few weeks have seen a rapid change in the 64-bit landscape. Hewlett-Packard Co. last week said it will soon begin shipping the ProLiant DL145, a thin server equipped with two Opteron chips.
Read "HP Adds to 64-Bit Computing Options."
The previous week, Intel announced that next quarter it will begin releasing Xeon chips with 64-bit extensions, which will appear in servers from all the top systems makers.

IBM gave customers a glimpse of what they can expect in the future when, earlier this year, it began shipping the BladeCenter JS20, a two-way system that runs the 64-bit, 1.6GHz PowerPC 970 chips. In the middle of the year, IBM will begin rolling out one-, two- and four-way systems running on the PowerPC, according to William Zeitler, senior vice president and group executive of IBMs newly formed Systems and Technology Group—a combination of the companys server and chip units.

"Linux gives us the opportunity to get more work onto our platforms," Zeitler said during a recent interview with eWEEK at IBMs Somers, N.Y., offices. "When we looked at BladeCenter, something on the order of 65 to 70 percent of the first 50,000 that were shipped ran Linux, which is considerably different than what Intel servers would have been in general. So our reasoning is ... there are some workloads that run on Linux that would do better on Power than they would on other [chips]."

Click here to read eWEEKs interview with William Zeitler. IBMs push to use the PowerPC 970 chip as a cornerstone of its low-end initiative comes from the companys realization that the Power architecture has traditionally been built with features that would first show up in high-end servers and later become available in low-end one- and two-way p615 systems. The result has been that IBMs high-end and midrange server businesses are stronger than the low-end space, Zeitler said.

"Some of the things that really are very, very important at the high end [raise the cost of systems]. ... Maybe you dont want [those things] at the low end," Zeitler said. With the PowerPC 970, the strategy was "if you are really going to be broadly successful in high-volume Power, youve got to have a different design and cost point," he said.

Brian Connors, vice president of Linux on Power, said the Power5, the next generation of the Power chip, due in the second half of the year, will also find its way into two- and four-way systems. Eventually, by 2006 or 2007, IBM expects a convergence of the Power and PowerPC lines, Connors said.

Next page: What sets IBM apart.


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