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Comdex 2001: IBM adds mainframe tools to Wintel servers

IBM is to upgrade its server line by shipping systems by the second quarter of next year with its own "Summit" chip set designed to improve the management and stability of Intel-based servers.

While IBM has profited from selling Wintel machines - servers with Intel processors and Microsoft operating systems - the company has seen users shy away from this pairing for applications that must be up and running at all times.

Users running large Web sites or crucial financial applications, for example, tend to choose higher-end servers to ensure their systems never go down.

Microsoft, in particular, has taken shots from users for producing lower-end operating systems than the versions of Unix offered by Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard.

But IBM claims that its Enterprise X Architecture chip set - code-named "Summit" - can make up for many of the shortcomings of the Wintel platform by improving processor functions, I/O speeds and memory features.

"If my partners aren't moving at the pace I want then I work on ways to improve the technology," said Tom Bradicich, director of architecture and technology for IBM's server group. "It's about looking at the industry standard and thinking of ways to help it."

The company will launch servers worldwide with the new chipset when Intel rolls out its Xeon server processors. Intel is expected to release the Xeon chips in the first half of next year.

IBM will also release a four-way server using Intel's second-generation 64-bit McKinley processors sometime next year, Bradicich said. The company is currently in talks with both US and non-US vendors to license the Enterprise X Architecture.

IBM has tried to bring some of its experience with mainframe computing to help the performance of Intel chips and Microsoft operating systems, and has built features into the new chipset that should help users manage servers and keep the machines running.

The company will also begin shipping a Remote I/O Expansion Chassis with servers built around the new chip set, which will let users add storage or networking resources to servers via an external hardware add-on.

The IBM "Chipkill" system, for reducing the number of memory failures to the new chipset, has also been added. Chipkill makes it possible to take an inoperative memory chip "off-line" while the server continues to run.

IBM and rival Sun also are trying to boost performance in the Unix market, adding high-end tools to midrange server lines and packing more features into less expensive machines.

Sun has chopped the prices on its lower-end servers to take aim at Wintel vendors such as Dell.

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