IBM has launched a new, low-end Power5-based server which the company said was core to its plan to offer 64-bit capability at 32-bit prices.
IBM hopes that users who are moving over to 64-bit Linux for their more mission-critical applications will be attracted to the new eServer OpenPower 720.
According to product manager Rohan Fernando, the Power5 processor's advantage is that it delivers a more linear boost to performance as processors are added.
"Linux is the limiting factor, not the processor architecture. Also, in terms of raw performance, the Power chip out-performs all other CPU architectures. Combined with better scaling, this results in benchmarks showing that it delivers 50% to 60% performance more than the competition," he said.
Performance is the big attraction of 64-bit computing and IBM claims it out-performs all the competition, including Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard.
"As Linux matures to support mission critical applications, IBM's new family of OpenPower systems takes Linux to the next level with Linux-tuned servers running on the Power5 microprocessor," said Brian Connors, vice-president for Linux on Power at IBM.
"OpenPower is a revolutionary option for businesses, particularly in the financial and retail industries, who are looking for a lower-priced, more powerful alternative to HP and Sun Unix systems."
IBM said that "clients can use an extensive relationship IBM has with both Novell SuSE and Red Hat on distributions of Linux supporting the new OpenPower server."
"Novell delivers enterprise-ready software and services for Linux that provide clients with solutions that spark innovation and help drive the business," said Hal Bennett, Novell's vice-president of alliances.
IBM has a close relationship with Novell following its $50m (£28m) investment in the Utah-based company which now owns SuSE, the second-biggest Linux distro.
"IBM's Linux-tuned OpenPower server at industry standard price points is the kind of solid foundation clients are looking for as the Linux workload expands. Novell's SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9, which is based on the Linux 2.6 kernel, provides support for the Power5 architecture and IBM Virtualization Engine, offering customers a reliable, flexible and proven 64-bit server foundation that significantly enhances the Linux experience", Bennett said.
"IBM's Linux on Power initiative and the IBM eServer OpenPower server offer Red Hat Enterprise Linux customers more great choices when building open source architectures," said Deb Woods, Red Hat's vice-president of product management.
"Corporate and government organisations alike are looking to take advantage of the security and value Linux offers. OpenPower with Red Hat Enterprise Linux makes it possible to deliver the advantages of Linux on a low-cost, flexible and reliable hardware platform."
The initial IBM eServer OpenPower offering will be the OpenPower 720 - available with either 1.5GHz or 1.65GHz Power5 processors. The systems will be available in a four-way rack or tower option with maximum memory of 64GBytes, and will be available with the advanced virtualisation option.
The OpenPower 720 supports SLES 9 from Novell SuSE Linux and RHEL AS 3 from Red Hat.
The OpenPower 720 systems will begin shipping on 24 September, with a three-year warranty and a starting price of $5,000. The advanced virtualisation option is available starting at $2,000. In the first half of 2005, IBM plans to introduce a two-way OpenPower system.
Manek Dubash writes for Techworld.com