Unix Servers Pick Up Pace

IBM, Sun, HP boost features, performance but not price.

Top-tier vendors IBM, Sun Microsystems Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. are adding features to their respective low- and midrange Unix servers while keeping prices down.

IBM last week said it is putting its 64-bit 1.2GHz Power4+ chip into its one- to four-way eServer p630 systems—both the rack-mounted p630-6C4 and the deskside p630-6E4. Even with the faster chips, pricing will be unchanged from the current p630 servers, which are powered by the 1GHz Power4 processor. A base price for the p630 is about $13,700.

The move comes about two months after IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., put its 1.45GHz Power4+ chip into the p630. With the 1.2GHz chip now available in the system as well, users have more options, said Jim McGaughan, director of IBM eServer strategy.

"By bringing in the 1.2GHz, there is about a 12 to 20 percent increase in performance," McGaughan said. "Customers are getting an instant price/ performance boost for no extra cost."

Sun V210

Separately, Sun, as part of its massive rollout of products and services last week, introduced two low-end servers, the Sun Fire V210 (pictured) and V240 systems. These servers are armed with Solaris 8 and one or two 1.2GHz UltraSPARC IIIi chips. Both come with the Sun ONE software stack, four integrated Gigabit Ethernet ports and an integrated Secure Sockets Layer card, said officials at Sun, of Santa Clara, Calif.

Both systems will be available May 20. The 1U (1.75 inches high) V210, which is designed for a front-end Web infrastructure, costs $2,995. The more robust, rack-optimized V240 starts at $3,495.

A week earlier, HP, of Palo Alto, Calif., expanded the capacity-on-demand functionality of its midrange Unix servers to include memory and cell boards as well as processors.

The announcement was part of a package of moves—including service enhancements and price cuts—by HP designed to keep its top spot in the midrange Unix space. The moves cover HPs eight-way rp7405 and rp7410 servers and the 16-way rp8400 system but will be applied to high-end systems later in the year, said Dimitris Dovas, worldwide product manager for HPs Unix servers.

HP is cutting the prices of the servers by about 20 percent and offering a free custom- configuration service, Dovas said. HP will custom-configure the servers—including partitioning, component installation and software loading—at the factory, speeding up the time it takes for users to deploy the systems, he said.

Steve Josselyn, an analyst with International Data Corp., said such moves by vendors reflect a demand by users for smaller systems. "A lot of what weve seen, particularly in the last 12 to 18 months ... is that customers seem to be buying in smaller increments of capacity, regardless of the platform," said Josselyn, in Framingham, Mass.