In addition, IBM designed new self-diagnosing and self-healing technologies into the p690, developed as part of the companys multibillion-dollar eLiza project, which aims to produce systems that can recognize and repair problems without human assistance.
"There are literally thousands of sensors that are in this system that basically can detect if components may fail or have failed," Powers said. "The basic idea is to quickly address, isolate and eliminate chain-reaction failures that can spread and eventually bring the entire system down."
IBM is also promoting its new high-end server as a single-chassis solution that can effectively handle workloads companies may currently have spread over several different machines.
By taking advantage of what IBM calls "virtualization," or what is more commonly known as partitioning, users could essentially divide a p690 into 16 individual servers, each running its own operating system and applications.
Overall, the p690 is designed to address the concerns of increasingly cost-conscious enterprise customers, Powers said.
"When customers look at platforms, theyre looking at how much floor space they take up, how much power they are consuming, how much system management time is required, and how much they cost," he said. "In all four areas, were reducing the price for customers."
But perhaps the most compelling argument in IBMs favor, according to Gigas Day, is how much more work IBMs 1GHz Power4 can do compared with rival chips, such as Suns fastest chip, the 900MHz UltraSPARC III.
Based on two industry-standard benchmarks, the SPECint 2000 and SPECpf200, the Power4 performs up to 2.4 times faster than the UltraSPARC III, which should enable the p690 to tackle workloads with fewer processors than what competitors systems require to achieve the same performance.
"The other vendors like Sun and Fujitsu brag about creating 72-way or greater systems," he said. "But IBMs argument is that they want to do more with less. In addition, many application licensing fees are tied to how many processors you run, so the more chips you have the more you end up paying."
While system prices vary greatly based on configurations, IBMs mid- to high-end Unix systems generally are priced well below systems from Sun. For example, a 16-way IBM p690 with 16GB of memory is priced at about $760,000, while a 16-way Sun Fire 15K costs about $1.4 million. An entry-level p690, with eight processors and 8GB of memory, lists at $450,000.
The system can utilize IBMs AIX or Linux applications.