IBM Readies System i for Power6

Big Blue is also gearing up to release the next version of its i5/OS in the first half of 2008.

IBM is preparing to release its first System i server that will use the companys new Power6 processors.

In addition to announcing the System i 570 server July 24, the Armonk, N.Y., company is detailing some of the new features in the latest version of its i5/OS operating system, which is scheduled for release in 2008.

In May, IBM introduced its next-generation Power6 chip, which offers a clock speed of 4.7GHz. Since its debut two months ago, IBM has offered Power6 chips only in a few of its System p servers. That will change July 24, when IBM executives outline plans for incorporating Power6 in some of the companys other systems.

For years, IBMs System i offerings were geared toward SMB (small and mid-sized) enterprises, which Big Blue has traditionally defined as companies with fewer than 1,000 employees. Although IBM has begun reconfiguring some of its System i servers as an alternative for small businesses that want to run mission-critical applications, the updated System i 570 with the Power6 processor is designed for the servers traditional customer base, said Jim Herring, director of IBMs high-end Power systems.

Those types of enterprises include financial services, manufacturing, hospitality companies and businesses involved in gaming, such as casinos, Herring said.

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"The System i servers have really proved to be a workhorse not only for our large enterprise customers, but also for medium-sized businesses as well," Herring said. "Its a system that allows companies to consolidate multiple workloads, or e-mail or transaction processing and have them all running on the same platform."

An example of IBM working with small and mid-size enterprises is the recent agreement with Nortel to offer an integrated suite of voice over IP and multimedia applications running on System i servers.

Recently, IBM announced that it would begin segmenting its System i organization into two distinct organizations. The first will cater to the companys large enterprise customers and focus on high-end systems, such as the System i 570 and 590 servers as well as IBMs System p offerings.

The other organization will focus on SMBs with products such as the System i 515, 520 and 550 servers. IBM Chairman and CEO Sam Palmisano has said that in the next five years, SMBs will be the companys largest customer segment.

Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research, wrote in a July 19 research paper that IBM is playing toward its strengths by dividing its System i offerings into two segments. In addition, by developing two divisions, IBM and its partners can focus on the different needs of both sets of customers.

"For larger companies, access to a single organization focused exclusively on Power-based enterprise class systems could notably simplify and ease purchasing, service and support processes," King wrote. "For SMBs, an organization that focuses on their specific needs should enhance their IT options and also heighten IBMs standing as a small business vendor. Highlighting System i as a key solution in both organizations will likely aid the efforts of ISVs and developers and also help extend the health and life of the platform."

With a starting price of $165,000 for one- to four-socket systems, the System i 570 with the Power6 processor is designed for larger enterprises. The server also offers up to 768GB of buffered DDR2 RAM (double data rate 2 RAM) and six SAS (serial-attached SCSI) drives and up to 387TB of data capacity. The system also allows users to create up to 160 virtual partitions that can help share computing and operation resources.

In addition, customers can utilize IBMs Capacity on Demand service and draw on additional compute power when needed.

While IBM is introducing the Power6-based System i July 24, it will not be generally available until September.

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In addition to the new System i, IBM is detailing some of the new features in its i5/OS V6R1, which is about to begin beta testing with select customers. In addition to offering an integrated database with the OS, Herring said the updated operating system will offer a number of security and virtualization features.

For example, the new version of the OS will offer greater encryption capabilities that can protect data either on the hard drive itself or on a storage tape. The virtualization features allow for one i5/OS partition to host storage for another i5/OS partition, which eliminates the need for separate partitions to be maintained on their own hardware.

The next version of the OS will also work with IBMs Systems Director, which offers features such as power management and configuration. Integrating with Systems Director will increase the management features of the operating system and offer better support for mixed environments that also use Microsoft Windows and UNIX.

The updated OS will also better integrate other IBM System storage products, such as the companys SAN (storage-area network) offerings, Herring said.

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