IBM Revs eServers

IBM offers 1.9GHz Power4+ processors in its eight- to 32-way eServer p690 systems, boosting processor speed and memory capacity.

IBM is ramping up the processor speed and memory capacity of its high-end eServer p690 systems by offering 1.9GHz Power4+ processors in the eight- to 32-way servers.

The upgrade comes a week after the Armonk, N.Y., company announced that a 32-way p690 set benchmark records for transaction processing, and that a German company, Juelich Research Center, is planning to use 41 of the systems as the base for a new supercomputer.

The move also comes as IBM prepares for the introduction in the second half of the year of its Power5 chip, which IBM officials said will offer significant improvements in performance and virtualization capabilities.

"This is an important table-setter for us," said James McGaughan, director of eServer strategy at IBM. "While weve been setting up for Power5, were still enhancing P4+."

The new chip will enable p690 users to upgrade from the current Power4+ chips—running at speeds of up to 1.7GHz—to the 1.9GHz processors. IBM also is doubling the memory capacity to 1TB. In addition, the new chip comes with a faster memory speed—from 567MHz to 633MHz—and 128MB of Level 3 cache.

Enterprises running p690 systems with the 1.1GHz or 1.3GHz Power 4 chips, or the 1.5GHz or 1.7GHz Power 4+, can upgrade to the 1.9GHz chip.

To make room for the new chips—p690s armed with the 1.9GHz processors will be available March 5, with the 128GB 633MHz memory cards available in June—IBM is cutting the prices on some of its current p690s by 12 percent to 15 percent. The price for an eight-way system with 1.7GHz processors is dropping from $601,488 to $528,488, McGaughan said. By comparison, an eight-way with the new 1.9GHz chips will start at $641,738.

A 32-way 1.7GHz system drops from almost $1.95 million to almost $1.65 million, he said. A 32-way system with the 1.9GHz chips will start at almost $2.08 million.

The company also is dropping prices on its two- to eight-way p650 and four- to 16-way p670 systems by 8 percent to 20 percent.

McGaughan said he doesnt expect the 1.9GHz chip to appear in other pSeries systems; the next chip upgrade will come with the Power5. The pSeries systems run both Linux and IBMs Unix operating system, AIX 5L.

Last week, IBM announced that a 32-way p690, running on the 1.7GHz chip and DB2 Universal Database 8.1, set a world record for transaction processing with almost 1.03 million transactions per minute, overtaking a 64-way Superdome system from Hewlett-Packard Co. powered by Intel Corp.s 64-bit Itanium chip.

The previous record was just over 1 million transactions per minute.

The test was run on the Independent Transaction Processing Performance Councils TPC-C benchmark, according to IBM.

McGaughan said the most significant number was the pricing per transaction: IBMs was $5.43 per transaction, compared with HPs $8.33.