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IBM unveils pre-packaged Linux clusters

IBM has unveiled what it claims are the industry's first pre-assembled and pre-configured Linux server clusters for business.

The latest pre-packaged Linux eServer Cluster 1300 units, which include applications, testing and support, are another part of the company's strategy to help bring the Linux operating system into wider use.

"[Customers] want a system they can plug in and start running their businesses on", said Peter Ungaro, IBM's vice-president of high-performance computing. "We have a long list of ideas for this."

The cluster offerings, which will be available from 26 November, will use up to 1,000 servers. They will come tested and ready to use, Ungaro said.

IBM, which pledged to invest $1bn (£0.7bn) in Linux technologies this year, said customers want to improve their business technologies during the economic downturn while lowering IT costs. "Linux allows them [customers] to get some leverage in that area," Ungaro said.

The clusters will run Red Hat Linux 7.1, and will be built from IBM's x330 and x342 Intel-based servers. They will be harnessed together using IBM's cluster and file management software based on the company's SP supercomputer.

An eight-server cluster running Intel Pentium III 1.25GHz processors will cost about $85,000 (£59,000).

The server clusters will be available in configurations for five target markets: high-availability, databases, e-commerce, e-mail and transaction processing. The e-commerce clusters will feature IBM's WebSphere e-business software suite, and the database clusters will include IBM's DB2 Universal Database Enterprise Edition software.

Ungaro said one of the main benefits of the clusters is that they can be rolled into a customer's business and be online quickly, instead of being assembled and configured on-site for several weeks or months, as happens with most cluster projects today.

Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst at IDC, said the clusters would expand IBM's business among independent software vendors (ISVs) and value-added resellers (VAR), which provide clusters to their own customers. ISVs and VARs are more likely to use IBM clusters than build them from scratch, Kusnetzky said.

The clusters also demonstrate that IBM is serious about its commitment to Linux, he added.

Bill Claybrook, an analyst at Aberdeen Group, said the clusters would be a "huge plus" for customers seeking such technologies for their businesses, because building clusters from the ground up is not an easy task.

IBM's timing is good, Claybrook added, because although the market for such units is still small, it is still waiting to be served.

IBM also unveiled its eServer Cluster 1600, which runs IBM's AIX 5L Unix, for customers that want pre-assembled and pre-tested Unix clusters for their businesses.

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