Bigger, Faster Server on Deck at IBM

IBM is giving its p655 system a speedier processor and doubling its memory.

IBM is bulking up its eight-way eServer p655 system with a faster chip and twice the memory.

The companys p655 family, now in its third generation and targeted for high-performance computing and business intelligence applications, has four-processor systems that run IBMs 64-bit 1.7GHz Power4+ chip, but until now the eight-way unit ran only the 1.5GHz chip. Now the eight-way comes with 1.7GHz chips.

In addition, IBM is offering 64GB of memory with the p655, compared with the previous maximum of 32GB, said Karl Freund, IBM vice president of pSeries products and strategy.

IBM engineers created a new DC power converter for the p655 that will improve power supply to the memory and enable it to grow to 64GB without impinging on performance, he said.

Freund said a key to the enhancements is that the Armonk, N.Y., company will also offer the upgraded p655 for the same price as the current eight-processor system—about $75,000. At the same time, the new system will offer about 20 percent more performance, IBM officials said.

The enhanced p655 will be available next week.

IBM is targeting the p655 at users who need a lot of computing power in a small footprint, Freund said. The p655 offers up to 128 chips in a 24-inch frame, and 64 p655s can be pulled together to create an IBM Cluster 1600. The p655 supports both IBMs AIX5L Unix operating system and Linux.

Charles King, an analyst at The Sageza Group Inc., said boosting the servers power and memory is a natural step for IBM. "Thats an environment thats really been taken over by highly clustered solutions," said King, in Mountain View, Calif. "The [upgrading of the] p655 is an indication that IBM has been having some success with it, and going bigger, stronger, faster makes sense for them. ... It offers a pretty significant performance boost."

Even as IBM continues to plug faster Power4+ chips into its p655 systems, the company is preparing to release its next-generation processor, the Power5, this summer. The new chip will offer such features as simultaneous multithreading and will appear in pSeries and iSeries systems.

The Power5 should give IBM systems a significant performance boost and a leg up on servers powered by Intel Corp.s Itanium chips, King said. The Power4+ and Itanium already are leapfrogging in performance benchmarks, he said.