IBM unveiled Wednesday its most powerful Intel-based server yet, the 16-way X440, underscoring the computer makers intensifying campaign to boost its position in that market segment.
The “building-block style” server, which can scale from two to 16 CPUs, features the new Xeon MP processors running at speeds up to 1.6GHz that were released this week.
The system is targeted at the high-end Intel-based enterprise space that industry analysts contend is becoming increasingly important and hotly contested.
“This market segment has grown quite robustly over the last five years,” said Illuminata analyst Jonathan Eunice. “You dont sell as many of these big systems as you do cheaper Web servers, but they are becoming pretty popular.”
While IBM claims it holds a competitive edge in the high-end Intel segment thanks to technologies it can leverage from years of developing mainframe systems, Big Blue is also touting a much simpler sales pitch–low prices.
In promotional materials, IBM notes that a 16-way X440 with 16GB of SDRAM priced at just over $100,000 costs about 78 percent less than a comparably configured 16-way Unisys ES7000, and 47 percent less than an eight-way Intel-based server sold by Compaq Computer Corp., based upon a comparison to an X440 outfitted with eight CPUs.
Prices for the X440, which will start shipping in July, start as low as $18,500 for a two-processor configuration and climb up to well over $100,000 for more fully equipped systems.
“IBM is very hungry, and they see price competition as a big place they can play,” Eunice said. “They got their butts kicked throughout the 90s in their server line. But now theyre fighting back. They are not particularly happy about the billions of dollars companies such as Dell Computer Corp. and Compaq Computer Corp. have been able to take away from what they see as their own backyard.”
Fewer Is Better
Fewer Is Better
IBM is pitching the X440 as an ideal solution for system managers seeking to consolidate servers within their data centers. By utilizing partitioning technologies once only found in much larger and more expensive systems, IBM said, customers can use a single server in place of dozens they previously needed.
“We have seen a dramatic uptake by customers looking to do server consolidation,” said Jim Gargan, vice president and business line executive for IBMs xSeries Intel servers. “The days when a customer would have 400 servers strewn throughout their environment are really rapidly going away.”
On the X440, for example, a user could divide a 16-way box into four physical servers, or 64 virtual partitions, Gargan said, with each partition using its own operating system.
Although the 64 virtual partitions may seem inefficient, since various partitions are sharing the same processors, Gargan said such a configuration is well-suited to handling most business workloads.
“If you have a lot of servers, chances are that at any given time some of those servers are not being utilized to their fullest capacity,” he said. “So what youre able to do is to consolidate onto dramatically fewer servers because with this system you can get better performance out of each of your processors, due in large part to the additional leverage you gain through the use of high-end mainframe technology.”
Another feature drawn from IBMs high-end systems, in particular the pSeries line, is remote I/O, which allows users to add a dozen PCI/PCI-X adapter slots outside the server.
“In addition, were also introducing a technology called the Scalability Port, which allows users to connect together four servers with a very high-speed connection,” Gargan said.
eLiza Boosts Reliability
eLiza Boosts Reliability
In addition, the new 16-way server offers added reliability features garnered from the computer makers ongoing eLiza research, which is a $1 billion project aimed at developing self-diagnosing and self-healing computer technologies that can greatly reduce system downtimes.
Some of the eLiza technologies integrated into the X440 include Active Memory, which enables users to add or replace failed memory without bringing the system down; real-time diagnostics; and software rejuvenation.
“We are really beginning to transform the entire Intel landscape by bringing in new price and performance capabilities that have been previously unseen in this market place,” Gargan said.
Last year, IBM was the worlds largest vendor, based on total sales, but ranked third in sales of Intel-based systems, running behind Compaq and Dell, according to Gartner Dataquest.
While IBM lost market share to rival vendors during much of the 90s, the company has begun gaining on competitors the last two years thanks to refreshment of its Unix-server line and expanding focus on Intel-based systems.
Last year, IBMs share of the world Unix market grew 2.3 percent, according to Gartner, while segment leader Sun Microsystems Inc. lost 3.1 percent. In Intel-based servers, according to Gartner, IBM posted a slight gain while market leader Compaq lost share.