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IBM puts Sequent on a new path

Cliff Saran
IBM's new Xeon-powered server family, launched today at the Cebit show, could offer Sequent users a cost-effective migration path onto industry-standard PC hardware

IBM acquired Sequent, a pioneer in Numa (non-uniform memory architecture) scalable, multi-processor server architecture, in 1999. Until now, industry watchers felt its roadmap for the Numa-Q (Sequent) server family was unclear. The situation was made worse as the servers ran Dynix, a proprietary version of the Unix operating system.

Tikiri Wanduragala, a senior consultant at IBM, said that, unlike previous NumaQ hardware, the new server would run on shrink-wrapped operating system software such as Linux and Windows 2000. The old hardware required custom software and operating systems to take advantage of its multiprocessor functionality, restricting users' choice.

The new server is being positioned as a migration path for users of the Sequent 540 machine.

One of the main differences with the new hardware is that while the Sequent requires three computer boards to support multiprocessing with Numa, the scalable port can achieve the same result with a three-chip chipset. By reducing the complexity, Wanduragala said IBM would be able to reduce the cost of the servers by a factor of four.

Bloor analyst Tony Lock noted Sequent users' concerns over IBM's Numa-Q strategy. "Users have been left wondering where they go next." While Lock had no doubt IBM would continue supporting Numa-Q technology, he said users could migrate away from Numa-Q onto rival hardware such as the Unisys ES7000.

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