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IBM tops off Power 5-based server line

IBM tops off Power 5-based server line

Targeting Unix archrivals Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems, IBM on Friday topped off the high end of its Power 5-based line of iSeries and pSeries servers, rolling out three systems all capable of hosting as many as 250 virtual servers on a single machine.

The eServer p5 595 and eServer i5 595 servers, each able to support as many as 64 processors and bundled with IBM's Virtualization Engine technology, are about three times faster than the company's eServer p690 and priced almost 40 percent lower, according to company officials.

Bundled with the i5/OS operating system, the i595 also comes with DB2, WebSphere, and storage controls in the operating system. Besides i5/OS, the server can also run AIX, Linux, and Windows. IBM officials said they will aggressively market the bundles solution to midsize companies working in the manufacturing, retail, and financial services markets.

Complementing the p5 595 on the lower end is the new 32-way p5 590 server, which is compatible with the company's existing Power 4-based line of servers. Also aimed at large corporate accounts, the system is positioned as a lower-priced departmental server best suited for running existing Unix- and Linux-based applications.

Corporate users can buy the eServer p5 590 with 1.65GHz clock speed, while the p5-595 is available with either 1.65GHz or 1.90GHz processors. Both support AIX 5L operating system versions 5.2 and 5.3.

The new systems appear to be attracting the attention of some larger IBM-based IT shops including San Francisco-based Union Bank of California, one of the US's 35 largest banks. The company says it will use the new system to better allocate a number of computing resources it must have at the ready for rapidly fluctuating business demands.

"The (IBM) high-end pSeries servers run over 30 critical applications, each of which require fluctuating levels of computing resources," said Rick Curry, vice president of enterprise server support at Union Bank of California. "We see the Power Architecture and the arrival of the p5-595 as giving us the ability to dynamically allocate our processing resources to meet these demands. We think the p5-595 will push this type of functionality to higher levels," Curry said.

Some analysts believe the new offerings could place added pressure on both HP and Sun, particularly the former with its Itanium-based systems, which have not had a lot of broad-based success yet.

"The Unix market is flat or slightly declining, but IBM has been growing. So if you are in a zero-sum market, then someone else is shrinking. If you are an HP customer with an Alpha or PA RISC machine and the company is telling you those are dead and so come to Itanium, and by the way they can't show you more than 53 users using it, this can be bad news for HP," said analyst Clay Ryder, executive vice president of Segaza Group.

One of the problems IBM might have over the short term, however, Ryder said, is that the boost in price-performance of the i5 is encroaching on that of the company's own zSeries of mainframes, thereby cannibalizing some of the higher end systems' sales.

"As the zSeries has gone down market and the iSeries is scaling up, what happens when they overlap. They are not quite there now but at some point users starting with a Greenfield will say, 'I like the integrated solutions and scaleability of both, I am confused as to what I do,'" Ryder said.

IBM officials claim the p5 595 set several new benchmark records with the lower-end p5 590 setting three. The p5 595 had the best overall performance in an ERP benchmark, the SAP AG SD 2-tier. The system tripled the performance of the 104-way Sun 15K server for Java serving3, besting the per-processor performance of the Sun server by 490 percent.

The 64-way system also more than doubled the performance of the 64-way HP Superdome for both Java serving3 and the HPC workloads4, showing a 116 percent better per processor performance than the 1.5GHz Itanium 2-based unit.

All three servers will be available on Nov. 19, company officials said.

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