Unisys Adds Muscle to Server Line

Its 40-chip Libra lets users adjust performance based on workload and manage multiple OSes running simultaneously.

Unisys Corp. Tuesday announced a new top-line MCP-based system, the 40-processor ClearPath Plus Libra Model 180, which extends the server lines capabilities to adjust performance based on workload demand and manage multiple operating systems running simultaneously within a single box.

The new server, the successor to the companys NX series, is designed to give customers not only extensive options as to which applications they wish to use, from Unisys MCP software to Unix-based applications such as Linux to Microsoft Corp. Windows 2000 Data Center, but also improved manageability to partition resources and manage performance on the fly.

"What weve tried to do is design a system thats flexible enough to meet all of our clients needs," said Kevin McHugh, vice president of platform marketing for Unisys, based in Blue Bell, Pa.

The Libra, priced starting at $954,000, features a unique blending of processors to run a wide range of applications and can accommodate up to eight of Unisys CMOS chips and an additional 32 Intel Xeons or Itaniums.

Utilizing the computer makers Cellular Multiprocessing technology, a single system can be divided into 10 partitions, or virtual servers, with each partition able to run different operating systems and software. Users can also redistribute the number of processors and memory among partitions without shutting down the system.

The partitioning capabilities and a "capacity on demand" option, which allows users to tap extra processing power--for a fee--in order to handle temporary surges in workloads, sold one IT manager on the new system.

"This computer really solves a multitude of problems for me," said Dan Fisher, chief information officer for Community First Bankshares Inc., a $5.7 billion financial institution based in Fargo, N.D., which has already purchased the Libra. In particular, he said the enhanced partitioning will improve his ability to run test applications before rolling them, and the capacity-on-demand feature enables him to tap additional computing power whenever needed.

Capacity on demand essentially lets customers tap extra processors or memory built into a server to adjust to heavier workloads on short notice. But unlike rival offering by IBM and Hewlett-Packard Co., Unisys program enables customers to ramp up and ramp down. Once IBM and HP customers tap previously unused components, they must continue to pay for them.

Another new feature of the Libra is performance redistribution, which allows users to boost performance of individual processors as needed.

While the Libra offers several advantages over competitors offerings, it is expected to appeal mostly to the computer makers installed based of corporate customers.

"I doubt youll see new customer wins with this, but this system should prove attractive to their installed base," said Rob Schafer, an analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based Meta Group. "While Unisys has seen some customer erosion, the companies who are left are the big corporations that would have a difficult time migrating away."

While customers for Unisys hardware have declined in recent years, the computer makers systems are still used by many of the worlds largest corporations, including 19 of the 25 largest airlines, nine of the 10 largest telecommunications companies and more than 3,000 banks.

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