IBM Unix servers take battle to the mid-range

IBM plans to undercut HP and Sun with a mid-range Unix system, and promises native Linux soon

IBM has announced a mid-range Unix server, with which it intends to take a big chunk of the market from leaders Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems. The p650 is based on IBM's own new Power 4+ processors and offers better price/performance than both HP and Sun systems, according to IBM. The company is preparing to launch native Linux on all its pSeries machines. It currently runs hosted Linux in logical partitions alongside IBM's own AIX operating system. "It looks a good piece of kit," said analyst Tony Locke of Bloor Research. "IBM has got the potential to gain market share from Sun and HP, but has to market the box properly." "IBM's main objecive is to raise the profile of the platform in the minds of purchasers," agreed analyst Martin Hingley of IDC Research. "Sun and HP probably have a bigger brand image at the moment." "We've captured the high end," said Adalio Sanchez, general manager for pSeries. "Now we are shifting to the mid-range," he said. Eight-way servers make up 25 to 50 percent of the Unix market, he said. IBM is lying third in Unix market share with 15 percent, according to IDC figures, although it claims its so-called "Regatta" servers have greater than 50 percent of the market for Unix servers costing more than $500,000. "We offer 40 to 50 percent more performance than 8-ways from Sun and HP, at a price around 15 percent less," said Sanchez. IBM also emphasised the reliability features which IBM is bringing from high-end servers. "Some other mid-range servers are stripped down models, with no redundant power supply or fans," he said. Other mainframe-like features include dynamic logical partitioning, which allows users to run multiple operating systems, and tune the amount of resources they have in a live system, including the allocation of hardware components such as adapter slots. The native Linux will complement Aix, said Sanchez: "Aix is the operating system of choice for the enterprise, but software vendors are racing to port applications to Linux." The p650 has a 1.45GHz Risc processor, the fastest on the market according to Sanchez. "IBM has the advantage of fabricating its own Power4 chips and will be able to launch CPUs with interesting packaging in coming years," said Hingley.

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