IBM to court service providers with new servers

IBM wants ISPs and ASPs' attention, and aims to get it with new servers.

IBM next week at Networld + Interop will announce new servers, as well as partnerships with a handful of software developers, in an attempt to woo ASPs and ISPs.

The company will introduce the Netfinity 4000R "thin server" as the centrepiece of a campaign to provide hardware, software and services to application service providers and Internet service providers. In addition to the Netfinity 4000R, IBM's arsenal of service provider hardware will include the previously announced Netfinity 8500R, and two unannounced servers, code-named Sparrow and Silkworm, according to Jim Gargan, director of product marketing for the Netfinity line.

These four servers will support Windows NT and Linux, as well as Windows 2000 when it becomes available. IBM will complement them with a new version of the company's RS6000 server, which supports the AIX operating system. The new RS6000, code-named Pizzazz, will also be rolled out next week, Gargan said.

The Netfinity 4000R, which will be targeted at Web hosting, is one of the smallest ISP servers available, measuring 1 1/2 inches thick. Because it is so small, service providers can stack up to 42 servers into a single rack, thus creating greater density of computing power. It will support up to two Intel 550MHz Pentium III Xeon processors.

The 4000R, available by month's end, will sport a large 1.5 terabytes of storage and 2GB of memory. Pricing has not been set, but IBM officials expect that a standard one-processor configuration would cost a little under $4,000.

Sparrow, a two-processor server that is 4 1/2 inches high, will be marketed as a high-availability system. The four-processor Silkworm server, at 6 inches high, will be the infrastructure node, Gargan said. The 8500R will be the workhorse of the set with eight Xeon processors.

Sparrow and Silkworm will be formally announced and available in the first quarter of 2000. The 8500R is available now.

In addition to the hardware announcements, IBM will be joined by several software partners who will champion their service provider-focused products for use on the Netfinity and RS6000 platforms. Included among the Netfinity partners are Inktomi, which offers Web caching software; RealNetworks, which provides streaming media software; and Resonate, which makes load-balancing software.

On the RS6000 side, partners include Check Point Software, with its firewalls; Intershock with e-commerce software; Macromedia for Web applications; Untech for caching; and Resonate. IBM plans to roll out custom server and software packages for service providers sometime in the second half of 2000, Gargan said, although he wouldn't say what software would be included.

IBM's vaunted Global Services business unit will not be part of the announcement next week, but IBM is looking to offer some support services for that group's target audience. These include 90 days of startup support for systems that run the Linux operating system.

The Netfinity 4000R includes integrated hardware technology from Network Engines, which specialises in thin servers for Internet companies in need of rack-dense environments.

IBM and Network Engines signed a deal last week in which IBM will license technology from Network Engines. According to Gargan, IBM is using Network Engines' hardware in the Netfinity 4000R. Big Blue also is interested in Network Engines' System Maintenance Bus Driver software for the Netfinity 4000R, according to a source close to the deal.

IBM officials declined to disclose the terms of the agreement, other than that IBM was interested in the company's software for its Server Proven program.