Taking Servers Higher

IBM adds power-boosting feature to iSeries; HP revs AlphaServer scalability.

IBM and Hewlett-Packard Co. are breathing new life into their respective high-end servers, with the hopes of giving users new reasons to stick with them.

IBM this week will announce it is re-energizing its eServer iSeries line with five new servers that will be equipped with IBMs suite of enterprise software. In addition, some new models will feature what IBM calls On/Off Capacity On Demand, a new technology that enables users to switch processors on and off for a fee.

HP this week will introduce three AlphaServers, including one equipped with 64-bit EV7 Alpha processors. The Palo Alto, Calif., company will also unveil a program to help AlphaServer users migrate to systems based on Intel Corp.s Itanium processors. (HP said it will stop making new Alpha systems by 2006.)

Part of IBMs rollout will be the IBM eServer iSeries Enterprise Edition line. While IBM servers have always come with IBM software, such as the DB2 database, Enterprise Edition servers will be bundled with the Armonk, N.Y., companys entire middleware stack. Also included will be Lotus Quickplace collaboration software, the WebSphere application server and Tivoli management products, officials said.

Customers will be able to order iSeries servers with the current basic software package, called Standard Edition.

The servers are also getting a power boost. The three- to six-processor i825 and 16- to 32-processor i890 and i870 all will feature IBMs 64-bit Power4 chips running as fast as 1.3GHz, officials said.

Key to the new products is the On/Off Capacity On Demand feature, which enables a business to pay only for the power it uses. Basically, the servers come with extra processors—the i825, for example, comes with six processors, but only three or four might be turned on when delivered. When users want to permanently or temporarily increase processing power, theyre given a 38-character license key to enter into a system. Once the key is entered, users can increase or decrease demand. The system sends an e-mail report to IBM about the on/off status of the processors, and IBM bills users for usage. For packaging company Huhtamaki Americas, which is using an early version of the i890, the ability to add power without having to shut down the system is crucial.

"I can now fire up an additional processor during peak performance periods or during heavy growth and integration periods without having to take a weekend to power down," said Brendan Carlton, system manager for Huhtamaki, in De Soto, Kan. "All of our plants in the United States rely heavily on the iSeries seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and when the system is down, often our plants are unable to produce products."

In addition, the high end of the new iSeries servers can run OS/400, Linux, Unix and Windows. They will also offer Linux virtualization, running up to 10 Linux partitions on a single processor.

The new servers, which range in price from $9,995 to $820,000, will be generally available Feb. 21.

For its part, HP is rolling out three AlphaServers that feature its new EV7 Alpha chip. Key to the new line are symmetric multiprocessing elements, such as system interconnects, that reside on the chip to improve application performance, officials said.

The EV7 also features a switchless mesh architecture that directly connects the AlphaServer processors, which increases scalability, officials said.

Dow Jones Reuters Business Interactive LLC, known as Factiva, uses AlphaServers to run search and retrieval and billing applications, said Stacey Gelman, chief product officer for Factiva.

"I expect that the new meshed architecture will provide a greater and more consistent scaling performance," said Gelman, in Princeton, N.J.

The new servers include the four-processor ES47 workgroup system, the eight-processor ES80 department server and the 16-processor GS1280 enterprise server. A 64-processor GS1280 will be released later this year, and AlphaServers based on upcoming EV79 processors will be rolled out next year, they said.

Starting prices for the new line range from $64,400 to $117,000, officials said.