IBM Makes Push into Low-End Unix Space

IBM looks to put pressure on HP and Sun in the low-end Unix market with the release of a 2U two-way server running on its 64-bit Power5 processor.

IBM is making another push into the low-end Unix space with the release of a two-way server running on its 64-bit Power5 processor.

The Armonk, N.Y., company already offers two 4U (7-inch) servers in the series, the two-way p5 520 and four-way 550, each of which also comes with Express versions aimed at the SMB (small and midsize business) market.

On Tuesday, IBM is unveiling the 2U (3.5-inch) p5 510 and 510 Express versions aimed at putting pressure at such rivals as Hewlett-Packard Co. and Sun Microsystems Inc.

"IBM has begun taking market share in the Unix space for several quarters now from the competition," said Jeff Howard, program director for p5 product marketing at IBM. "We have a lot of share in the high-end and midmarket space, and we think there is a lot of room to take space in the low end. … The 2U space is about 38 percent of the two-way Unix server revenue, and a little more in shipments, and we havent had an offering in this space for a little while now."

The Unix market, though not growing, will still account for about $20 billion of the server market next year, according to IDC, in Framingham, Mass. Given such numbers, IBMs moves in the space make sense, said Jim Garden, an analyst with Technology Business Research Inc.

"As they grow their [Unix] line, theyre still growing revenue," said Garden in Hampton, N.H. "The company is going to continue building up its Unix line because [it] draws a lot of business for software and services."

It will be important for HP and Sun to protect their shares of the Unix server business, Garden said. Both companies have challenges. HP, of Palo Alto, Calif., is standardizing its high-end server line on Intel Corp.s 64-bit Itanium chip and is working to keep its HP-UX users in the fold.

Sun, of Santa Clara, Calif., is trying to grow its line of x86 systems running Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s Opteron processor while working with Fujitsu Ltd. in building future SPARC-based servers. Sun recently released the latest version of its Unix operating system, Solaris 10.

The 510, which will be available Feb. 18 and will come with one or two processors, will hold a 1.65GHz Power5 chip. The single-processor 510 Express—which comes with such IBM middleware as the DB2 database and WebSphere application server, IBM TotalStorage, and third-party applications—will roll out with a 1.5GHz chip next week, while the two-way version will be released in April, Howard said.

The 510—which will run IBMs Unix operating system, AIX 5L versions 5.2 and 5.3, as well as Linux—also will be the companys first p5 system offered for less than $4,000. Because it supports IBMs Virtualization Engine and comes with the Power5s micro-partitioning capabilities, the 510 will be able to run both AIX and Linux simultaneously.

The system is aimed at customers with remote stores and offices and that are running edge-of-network applications, Howard said.

IBM has been pushing Linux on its Power architecture for more than a year. In September 2004, the company unveiled its OpenPower platform, a family of Power-based systems designed specifically for customers in the Linux volume server space.

/zimages/1/28571.gifIBM recently unveiled a new low-cost OpenPower server. Click here to read more.

At the Southern California Linux Expo 3X conference in Los Angeles this weekend, IBM will conduct demos of various Power-based systems, including the rack-optimized two-way OpenPower 710, which the company unveiled late last month. IBM also is expected to demo its two-way i5/520—supporting the Power architectures virtualization capabilities—running Linux, AIX and i5/OS (the newest generation of the OS/400 operating system) simultaneously.

Editors Note: This story was updated to include information and comments from analysts.

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