Unisys, Fujitsu Boost 64-Bit Systems

In effort to compete with market leaders, both unveil faster servers.

High-end server makers Unisys Corp. and Fujitsu Ltd. are rolling out faster 64-bit systems this month as competition intensifies among manufacturers of computers designed to run business-critical applications.

Unisys, seeking to expand the appeal of its top-of-the-line ES7000 server, unveiled two product lines based on the system: the Orion series, touted as an alternative to proprietary Unix servers, and the Aries, positioned to compete against high-end Intel Corp.-based servers.

The Orion and Aries can be bought with either Intels 32-bit Xeon chips or new 64-bit Itanium 2 processors, which were released this month.

Unisys, in Blue Bell, Pa., is counting on Intels 1GHz Itanium 2 chips and relatively new high-end software offerings from Microsoft Corp. to help it gain ground on 64-bit server leaders Sun Microsystems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM, whose top-selling products use proprietary Unix-based software and RISC-based processors.

The ES7000 Orion 130 can be configured with up to 32 Itanium chips in two independent domains of 16 processors each, making it the highest Itanium 2 configuration available today. Unisys also offers a similarly configured Orion 230, which features Intels 32-bit Xeon processors.

The Orion 130 can be equipped with up to 64GB of memory per domain and offers 64 internal I/O slots. The Orion 230 can also handle up to 64GB of memory but offers 96 I/O slots. Prices for the two models range from $140,000 to $700,000.

The new ES7000 Aries series is aimed at the lower end of the 64-bit market and the high end of the Intel-based market and can be configured to handle eight, 12 or 16 Intel processors.

The Aries 130 can be equipped with up to 16 Itanium 2 processors and 64GB of memory and offers 16 I/O slots. The Aries 230 can house up to 16 Xeon chips, 32GB of memory and 48 I/O slots. System prices range from $75,000 to $300,000.

Unisys is optimistic that its new offerings based on the ES7000 server, first introduced in 1999, will attract corporate customers seeking to reduce IT costs, an issue that has taken on greater importance in the face of a generally weak U.S. economy.

In contrast to a past focus on performance only, recent product launches from 64-bit leaders Sun and IBM have increasingly emphasized lower system prices, a trend that hasnt gone unnoticed by corporate system managers.

"I think its fairly obvious that competitive pricing has become more aggressive in the past year," said Ed Tobin, CIO for Colgate Palmolive Co., in New York. "But pricing is still only one consideration. The systems not only must meet our needs today, but they should be able to handle the increasing demands well put on them."

Seeking to address customers desire for greater performance, Fujitsu, maker of the massive 128-processor PrimePower 2000, the largest system on the market today (see picture), beefed up its product offerings with the launch of faster versions of its proprietary 64-bit processors.

Starting this month, Tokyo-based Fujitsu is integrating new 700MHz, 788MHz and 810MHz SPARC64 GP processors in seven models of its PrimePower servers, which employ the Solaris operating system developed by Sun.

Using the new 788MHz chips, Fujitsu said its PrimePower 2000 will achieve a 23 percent higher score on the Transaction Processing Performance Councils TPC-C transaction benchmark over systems using its older, 563MHz processor. The boost is significant in that Fujitsus 128-way server already holds the top spot on the benchmark, which measures a systems performance in handling multiple online transactions.