New Servers Punch Up the Power

IBM, Intel, Gateway systems target SMBs.

Small and midsize businesses will see their server choices grow in the next few weeks as OEMs begin rolling out more powerful systems targeted at that end of the market.

IBM has chosen to begin the rollout of its new Power5+ processor in a new line of low-end servers designed to give SMBs the kind of features—such as greater virtualization—normally found in higher-end systems. In addition, many OEMs will bring Intel Corp.s new dual-core "Paxville" Xeon chips—scheduled to be released this week—into systems aimed at SMBs.

IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., is aiming the first of the Power5+ systems at the volume space, with one- and two-socket servers that start as low as $3,750. The new System p5 Express servers also represent the merging of the Unix-based pSeries and Linux-based OpenPower lines, officials said. Each system can come loaded with either AIX 5L—IBMs Unix variant—or Linux, and the new Integrated Virtualization Manager is designed to make it easier for users to create partitions on the servers that can run Unix and Linux simultaneously.

IBM this week will begin shipping the one-socket p5 520 and two-socket p5 550, as well as the p5 550Q, which offers a 1.5GHz Power5+ chip with four processing cores. The new chip also will ship with the p5 575 for high-performance computing and with the IntelliStation Power 285 workstation.

Power5+ not only offers higher speeds but also a high-bandwidth system switch and up to 72MB of cache memory. IBM plans to bring the chip to its midrange and high-end systems next year, officials said.

Robert Gamso, senior principal systems architect for Whirlpool Corp., said what will be important to him as Power5+ rolls out will be whether the improved performance and power come at an attractive price. The increased chip frequency should translate into better throughput, which is important as applications become more power-thirsty, Gamso said. The dynamic partitioning in the pSeries servers also helps with system utilization.

"Where it starts to fall for us is on the price/performance curve," said Gamso in Benton Harbor, Mich. "If its going to give us increased power at competitive price points, that would really help us."

For customers in the x86 world, Intels release of the first of its dual-core Xeons will give them more options. Until now, only Advanced Micro Devices Inc., with its Opteron chip, offered a true server processor with two cores. Intel was able to move up the release of its first dual-core chip, which was initially scheduled for early next year, thanks to the work of its engineers and the quality of the silicon, said a spokesperson at the Santa Clara, Calif., company.

IBM will bring the Paxville chips to its two-socket x336 and x346 rack systems, officials said. The x346 with the new chip will ship this month; the dual-core x336 will ship next month. In addition, Hewlett-Packard Co., of Palo Alto, Calif., next month will begin shipping the two-socket ProLiant DL380 and the four-socket DL580 and ML570 systems.

For its part, Gateway Inc., of Irvine, Calif., next month will ship the two-socket E-9510T tower server and the E-9415R rack system armed with the dual-core Xeons.