IBM next month will finish transitioning its core pSeries and iSeries server lines to the Power5 chip when it starts shipping three new high-end systems, two of which support as many as 64 processors. The next challenge for the Armonk, N.Y., company: getting more customers to buy the boxes.
According to IBM officials, the Power5-based systems need fewer processors to run more workloads than current systems, while costing less money.
While attractive attributes, it hasnt been an easy transition to Power5. Revenue for the IBM divisions shipping the companys two Unix lines slowed in the second quarter as the transition in those units got under way. In the companys third-quarter earnings announcement last week, Mark Loughridge, senior vice president and chief financial officer, said revenue for the pSeries rebounded, growing 1 percent year over year. However, iSeries unit revenue declined 26 percent.
"The transition to Power5 is taking longer than previous cycles, as existing customers must transition their operating environment to the new level required," Loughridge said. "The new Power5-based servers can run multiple operating system application environments."
The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, a private school headquartered in Los Angeles, is in the early stages of transitioning from its current 12-way i840 to a nine-processor i5 570. FIDM will run the two systems side by side until the lease on the i840 runs out in December, spending the time until then moving the applications over to the new server.
"We bought the new box so we dont start cold turkey [in December]," said Roxanne Reynolds Lair, the schools chief technology officer. "This will allow us to have a smoother transition. ... Its really important that you have good support both from the IBM team and from your business partner. Like any new technology, if you try to do it all yourself, it could be difficult."
Still, IBM remains hopeful. The systems due next month in particular, officials said, will be attractive to high-end customers and those undergoing server consolidation projects.
The new servers include the 32-way p590, 64-way p595 and 64-way i595. They not only offer more performance than their current Power4-based counterparts, but they also cost about 40 percent less, officials said.
Being able to handle multiple workloads will continue to be a desired feature for users of high-end systems, not only from IBM, but also from competitors such as Sun Microsystems Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co., said Gordon Haff, an analyst with Illuminata Inc.
"With this announcement, [IBM is] saying what others like HP are saying, which is that whats important is the virtualization capabilities, the ability to handle lots of workloads, rather than just [offering] one big box," said Haff, in Nashua, N.H. "The real differentiator is going to be in the virtualization capabilities."