IBM will unveil the first four Unix servers to be based on the company's next-generation Power5 microprocessor. The servers, which will range in size from dual-processor to 16-way systems, will begin shipping by 27 August.
The p5 server line will include the dual-processor p5-520, the 4-way p5-550, and the p5-570, which will support as many as 16 processors. A slimmed-down version of the p5-570, called the p5-570 Express, will support as many as eight processors.
The lower-end p5-520 and p5-550 servers will be available in both tower and 4U rack-mount configurations. IBM plans to announce smaller 1U and 2U p5 systems by September. A larger server that will scale to as many as 64 processors will follow later in the year, company executives said.
The p5 systems will use the same basic hardware as IBM's iSeries minicomputers, which were launched in May, and by the first half of 2005, IBM will support the iSeries' i5/OS as well as Linux and Unix on high-end p5 systems such as the p5-570, IBM said.
The Unix servers are designed for a different type of customer than are the iSeries, which tend to be used by small and medium-sized businesses looking for a turnkey solution, said Adalio Sanchez, general manager of IBM's eServer pSeries.
"The typical pSeries Unix customer wants to buy a la carte," he said. "They want the ability to pick their own middleware, their own applications and their own database."
A major design goal for the p5 systems was to integrate mainframe-like technologies that would make them not only faster, but more efficient than other Unix systems in the way they use system resources, said Sanchez.
"The p5 eServer product line is really about changing the game," he said. "It's about having Unix mature as a platform."
The p5s use a multithreaded and multicore chip design, which means that each of the Power5's two processor cores can run two tasks at the same time, making the Power 5 appear to the computer's operating system as though it has four processors.
The 276 million-transistor chips also use IBM's Virtualisation Engine technology to divide each processor core into as many as 10 virtual servers, a feature not available on Power4-based systems.
"We put a hypervisor between the processor and the operating system that allows you to do virtualisation," said Sanchez, referring to microcode that IBM has been using in its mainframe systems for years.
The systems will range in starting price from $12,920 (£6,950) for the p5-520 to $28,659 for the p5-570 Express. The p5-570 will start at $25,928, and the p5-550 will start at $22,100.
Processor clock speeds will range from 1.5GHz for the p5-570 Express to 1.9GHz for the p5-570. The systems will ship with either version 5.2 or 5.3 of AIX 5L, or with Linux.
Robert McMillan writes for IDG News Service