IBM Cranks Up System p Servers

New processor and virtualization capabilities ramp the performance of IBM's high-end Unix systems.

IBM is rolling out enhanced high-end System p servers armed with the latest Power5+ processor and greater virtualization capabilities.

The servers—the 64-core p5-595 and the 32-core p5-590—come with IBMs new Dual Stress processor technology, which the Armonk, N.Y., company first developed for game consoles and which officials said gives the larger system the record-breaking benchmark capabilities of more than 4 million transactions per minute, said Jeff Howard, director of System p marketing at IBM.

Dual Stress simultaneously stretches silicon atoms in one transistor and compresses them in another, which enables greater processor speed and efficiency—up to a 24 percent improvement in transistor speed, but at the same power levels.

In addition, the new systems come standard with IBMs Virtual Engine technology, and now offer the Tivoli Usage and Accounting Manager, a tool that enables businesses to track the use of resources within a virtualized environment. The software also eases the task of billing for the use of those resources.

IBM first introduced the new Tivoli software in its mainframe and x86 systems in June. Combined with the Virtual Engine technology—which enables users to run up to 254 virtual servers per physical system and up to 64 virtual processors per virtual server—it creates a true utility computing environment, Howard said.

"It really gets it to the point where theyre operating as a big utility," Howard said "They can charge [for use of the virtualized environment] on a per-drink basis."

IBM also is launching the Server Consolidation Factory for System p, which offers a complete solution—hardware, middleware and services—to help customers create a virtualized computing environment based on the platform and designed to save users money, real estate and power costs.

IBM officials in April said the p5-595 and p5-590 would be upgradable from the Power5 to Power5+ processor, and both also will be upgradable to the Power6 chip, due in mid-2007, Howard said.

"Its really all about server consolidation and virtualization on the worlds most powerful [Unix] server," he said.

IBM, Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard are in a tight competition for a Unix space that—while relatively flat in terms of growth—is a $20 billion market. According to research firm Gartner, of Stamford, Conn., Sun was the top vendor in revenue in the first quarter of 2006, with a 32 percent market share, followed by HP at 29.7 percent and IBM at 29.6 percent. IDC, of Framingham, Mass., said that in the quarter, Unix server revenue declined 7.1 percent over the previous year and shipments fell 8.7 percent.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read about HPs Unix push.

The servers—both due for general availability Aug. 11—are built with 16-core units called "books." Each book contains two eight-core multichip modules, with four dual-core Power5+ chips. Both servers can run on the 2.1GHz Power5+; the p5-595 also can come with the 2.3GHz chip.

Each chip offers 1.9MB of Level 2 cache, while each multichip module offers 36MB of Level 3 cache.

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