IBM sails Regatta into high-end server market

In an effort to increase its share of the multibillion-dollar high-end Unix server market, IBM has launched its highly...

In an effort to increase its share of the multibillion-dollar high-end Unix server market, IBM has launched its highly anticipated Regatta server.

The new system is IBM's first server aimed directly at the lucrative market for high-end Unix servers priced between £700,000 and £3.5m.

Don Young, an industry analyst at UBS Warburg, said, Regatta marks the introduction of IBM's Power4 dual processor "Spinnaker" chip with 1.5Mbytes of L2 cache. The copper-based 0.18-micron technology Power4 chip delivers 30% more performance while consuming as much as 66% less power.

Power4 chips were designed to compete with Sun Microsystem's UltraSparc V chips and Intel's McKinley processors, said Young. Sun rolled out its new Starcat server running UltraSparc V processors last week.

Regatta will include IBM's self-healing automatic maintenance system and offer partitioning features that are unavailable in existing RS6000 servers.

By the second half of 2002, Young expects IBM to add dynamic partitioning to Regatta models that will enable "fractional partitioning of CPU, memory, and I/O capability." NUMA-based configurations of Regatta with single system images running between 128 and 256 processors are also expected to arrive in 2002. Regatta will also be able run different operating systems simultaneously within its separate partitions, such as IBM's AIX operating system and Linux.

Part of the allure of Sun's Starcat is the ability to partition the Sun server. With some configurations the server can be partitioned 18 different ways, said Sun. However, Young said, "IBM's near-term outlook is world class and reflects the work of mainframe engineering talent that is moving IBM's Unix technology far ahead of the competition."

"We expect to see top-ranking Transaction Processing Performance [TPC] benchmarks [from Regatta]," said Young, who added that Sun has been reluctant to use TPC benchmarks for Starcat as Sun officials claim they are not real-world measurements.

With Regatta, Young said, IBM hopes to increase its current high-end Unix market share, which stands at less than 10%. Hewlett-Packard and Compaq, once formidable Unix players, are leaving the Unix market as they port their Unix customers over to Intel's Windows-based Itanium chip family.

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