IBM touts new workstations

As demand for heavy graphics capabilities in engineering and graphics industries becomes more rigorous, workstations are making a comeback. IBM is hoping its new line of IntelliStation workstations will give it a lead in that marketplace.

As demand for heavy graphics capabilities in the life sciences, engineering, and graphics industries becomes more rigorous, workstations are making a comeback. IBM is hoping its new line of IntelliStation workstations will give it a lead in that marketplace.

The company is turning up at the high end of the market, with its professional-grade workstations running above $2,000. During Comdex Fall 2002, IBM introduced the midrange IntelliStation M Pro 6219 which starts at $2,335; the high-end IntelliStation Z Pro 6221, which starts at $3,189; and the IntelliStation Power p630, that will start at $12,495 without a graphics card. By comparison, HP and Dell also announced new workstation lineups at Comdex. Prices start at under $1,000 for HP workstations and $1,300 for the Dell workstations

IBM is lagging at third place in workstation sales behind HP and Dell, according to recent statistics from Gartner Dataquest, but its prices are much steeper than the competition's. According to the survey, workstations shipments grew for the second consecutive quarter after a string of declines, and Dell was in first place, followed by Hewlett-Packard, and then IBM, which beat out Sun Microsystems to take over the No. 3 slot.

But IBM is touting its new workstations, which run on the latest Intel Pentium 4 and Xeon processors and IBM's Power4 64-bit processor, as being the key to taking up the slack.

"The market is a $5 billion opportunity," said Rick Rudd, director of IntelliStation strategy for IBM. The company has already taken pains with ergonomics, putting ports on the front and back ends of the workstations, integrating server-inspired technology such as diagnostic LEDs to direct the system administrator to a problem among components, and integrated RAID mirroring storage for continuous backup. IBM plans to up the competitive ante by offering more complete services and a stronger Linux focus, Rudd said. Come 2003, the workstations will be preloaded with software, he added.

Features of all three models are as follows:

  • The midrange IntelliStation M Pro 6219 has a choice of 2D and 3D graphics accelerators from Matrox, Nvidia, and 3Dlabs, and up to 4GB dual-channel DDR memory. Also included are front-mounted ports for USB 2.0, audio, and IEEE 1394, an Intel Pentium 4 processor up to 3.06GHz, 533MHz system bus, 8X AGP graphics, Ultra320 SCSI, and integrated Gigabit Ethernet.
  • The high-end IntelliStation Z Pro 6221 has dual Intel Xeon processors up to 2.8GHZ and up to 8GB DDR memory, for multitasking and multithreaded applications. The 64-bit I/O architecture doubles the data path with dual-channel Ultra320 SCSI, 64-bit PCI-X slots, and full-bandwidth Gigabit Ethernet. There is a choice of advanced and extreme 8X AGP 3D graphics accelerators from Nvidia and 3Dlabs.
  • The IntelliStation Power p630 has up to 16GB ECC memory and a choice of advanced 3D graphic adapters. The 64-bit workstation--which uses the IBM Power4 processor in single or dual configurations--is designed for the subtle texturing and lighting of the IBM GXT4500 or GXT6500 graphics accelerators. The IntelliStation POWER p630 supports AIX 5L (Unix), which offers APIs and a toolbox to port Linux applications to AIX 5L.

Whether dual processing is really something users will want to pay for is at question here. Only 20 percent of applications are currently multi-threaded, admitted Rudd.

But the new features of IBM's IntelliStations are likely to be popular in the engineering and digital media industries. The makers of Harry Potter used IntelliStations, and rumor has it, the makers of Lord of the Rings will announce they've been using IBM workstations after the third version of the film is released.

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