IBM adds servers to bolster midrange line

IBM last week boosted its midrange Unix server line-up with new models featuring faster processors, new reliability and...

IBM last week boosted its midrange Unix server line-up with new models featuring faster processors, new reliability and "self-healing" technologies developed under IBM's eLiza project.

According to IBM, the new eight-processor eServer p660M1 system delivers almost 60% more raw processing power than the company's current M80 model.

Delivering much of that performance are the new 750-MHz Power3 chips that feature IBM's copper and silicon-on-insulator (SOI) technologies, and enhanced memory management technologies, claimed Chuck Brian, an IBM director.

A new predictive failure analysis function allows a system to self-diagnose potential hardware problems and alert IT staff, Brian said. A similar capability on the software side automatically predicts and alerts staff members about software failures. IBM's Chipkill technology is designed to deal with memory-based system failures. The new servers also feature a dynamic processor de-allocation function for automatically reassigning tasks from a failing processor.

These features have been migrated down from IBM's mainframes into the midrange space as part of the eLiza project.

In keeping with the trend established by rival Hewlett-Packard, IBM's new boxes also offer a capacity-on-demand feature. Using it, customers can quickly activate additional processors on the system as needed.

The capabilities of the new servers give IBM's midrange Unix technology an edge over comparable boxes from rivals such as HP and Sun Microsystems, claimed Kevin Smith, chief executive officer of MDoffices, a New York-based start-up that operates a service for physicians to transmit medical information via wireless devices.

"We looked at various vendors and eventually made a decision to go with IBM for two reasons," Smith said. "Their technology allows us to run [the servers] on much less power than competitors, and they offered us a lease arrangement under which we don't have to pay anything for the first six months." Smith said he expects to install the servers in early 2002.

Southern Pipe and Supply, a wholesaler of plumbing and heating equipment, decided to go with IBM's new servers because it liked the vendor's long-term Unix road map, said IT director Johnny Dean. Southern, which currently uses Unix servers from Data General, plans to migrate to IBM's new servers in the next several weeks, he added.

Features such as Chipkill, SOI and capacity upgrades on demand were particularly crucial factors behind that decision, Dean said.

Both Sun and HP, which is the market leader in the midrange Unix space, are planning major new upgrades to their own line-ups. Sun's high-end UltraSPARC III-based servers are expected to launch in late September, while HP's upgrade is scheduled for mid-September.

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