Following recent announcements by rivals Sun Microsystems Inc. and Fujitsu Technology Solutions Inc., IBM last week rolled out its latest entry into the increasingly competitive high-end Unix server market.
The eServer p690, a 32-way system known by the code name Regatta, features the companys new "server on a chip" microprocessor architecture, the 1GHz 64-bit Power4.
It also features self-healing technologies to reduce system failures and has the capability to be divided into as many as 16 "virtual servers" that can enable businesses to consolidate several machines into one.
The new system starts shipping Dec. 1 and will run against Suns new top-of-the-line 106-way Sun Fire 15K server, which debuted two weeks ago, and Fujitus 128-processor system, the PrimePower 2000, which the Sunnyvale, Calif., company launched this summer.
"I hear its going to blow peoples socks off," said Robert Cancilla, director of corporate systems planning for Republic Indemnity Co. of America, in Encino, Calif., which uses IBM mainframes. "We dont use the P series, but we will probably be very interested in it when they ship the I series."
"IBMs making the argument that based on their microprocessor enhancements and new system technologies, their system can handle high-end workloads using fewer processors than competitors," said analyst Brad Day, of Giga Information Group Inc., in Cambridge, Mass.
Unix servers, which cost up to $10 million each, have become a mainstay at many large corporations because of their reliability and ability to readily scale upward to meet increasing workload demands. Also, high-end multiprocessor Unix systems are capable of handling a large number of simultaneous transactions.
Last year, Sun, of Palo Alto, Calif., was the leading provider of high-end Unix servers (IBM was next) but was second to IBM in server revenue, according to International Data Corp., in Framingham, Mass.
Key to the IBM system is the companys Power4 microprocessor, a design that combines two 1GHz processors on a single die, along with a high-bandwidth system switch and large memory cache. The 1GHz Power4 is a huge leap over its predecessor, the 450MHz Power3. The chips design also saves energy, a key issue when multiple processors are bundled together in a single box.
Also, IBM designed self-healing technologies into the p690, developed as part of the companys multibillion-dollar eLiza project, which aims to produce systems that can recognize and repair problems without human assistance.
IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., is also promoting the server as a single-chassis solution that can handle workloads companies have spread over multiple machines. Taking advantage of what IBM calls "virtualization"—or partitioning—users can essentially divide a p690 into 16 individual servers, each running its own operating system and applications.
Overall, the p690 is designed for increasingly cost-conscious enterprise customers, said Dan Powers, IBM vice president of enterprise server strategies. Prices vary, but IBMs mid- to high-end Unix systems generally cost much less than systems from Sun. For example, a 16-way IBM p690 with 16GB of memory costs about $760,000, while a 16-way Sun Fire 15K is about $1.4 million.