IBM last week upped the ante for competition in the Unix server market with the launch of its p690 eServer, based on a new generation of its Power microprocessor.
The p690 eServer, formerly code-named Regatta, is designed to move huge amounts of data from memory through the processor to accommodate demands for such uses as managing Internet traffic. Running at a clock speed of 1.1 gigahertz or 1.3 GHz, the Power 4 processor also features internal bandwidth to move data to the central processing unit (CPU) at a rate of "125 gigabytes per second, the equivalent of downloading 25 full-length DVD movies per second," said Dan Powers, IBMs vice president of worldwide server strategy.
"Power 4 is going to be very competitive with Sun Microsystems UltraSparc III," said Kevin Krewell, an analyst of MicroDesign Resources, which publishes the MicroProcessor Report. Top clock speeds for UltraSparc III are 750 megahertz and 900 MHz.
Power 4 looks radically different from its competitors. IBM will manufacture two CPUs with a large shared cache memory between them as one chip, said Ravi Arimilli, IBMs chief scientist for the Power 4 architecture. Cache memory is located the shortest distance possible from the CPU, and feeds data and instructions into the processor engine.
"Chief information officers are not choosing a chip or a benchmark. Theyre choosing an architecture," and Sun has the leading Unix architecture, said Sun Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy.
IBMs 32-processor p690 eServer could double the performance of Suns newly announced Sun Fire 15K, Arimilli said. Such performance could lead to savings not only in purchase price, but also in running software such as the Oracle database system, which is priced by number of CPUs on the server, he said.
The p690 eServer is due in December at a price of $450,000 for an eight-way, 1.1-GHz system.
Last week, Sun announced a low-end server — the Linux-based Cobalt server appliance. Sun is bringing out a $4,999 Cobalt Control Station appliance that will make it easier to manage Cobalt Web servers, caching servers and other appliances.