Unisys introduces Dylan - the server

Time for a Windows-centric approach, said Zebedee (probably)
Written by Joe Wilcox, Contributor

Time for a Windows-centric approach, said Zebedee (probably)

Unisys is betting big on Windows Server 2003, and will release a new version of a server that will run up to 32 Intel processors to showcase the new operating system. Code-named Dylan, the Unisys ES7000/500 server comes little more than two weeks before Microsoft's official launch on 24 April of Windows Server 2003. Last month, the company released gold code of the software, clearing the way for the release of new systems running Windows Server 2003. For Unisys, Dylan marks the revival of the ES7000. The company unveiled the mainframe-like 32-way server in mid-1999, rapidly winning deals with other computer manufacturers to carry the product. In 2000, Compaq and Dell agreed to sell the server. But Compaq dumped the ES7000 about a year later. Dell followed suit in early 2002. The ES7000 uses a technology called "CMP," or cellular multiprocessing, which lets groups of processors inside the server work independently of each other. For example, eight processors might be assigned to an essential database application while three groups of four processors each might run three separate operations for an HR department. The flexibility of the system is designed to cut hardware and management costs. "Unisys is looking to help people who want to get control of what had been a sprawl of servers smeared across the corporate landscape," D.H. Brown analyst Rich Partridge said. "Unisys is trying to get customers back to a more centralised kind of control." Mark Feverston, Unisys' vice president of platform marketing for enterprise servers, characterised the approach as a good way for businesses to buy only as much computing power as is needed now, but with overhead to grow over time. "Unisys is trying to introduce people to the ES7000 that aren't willing to commit to a big configuration and grow up when the customers do see the value of the old-style, mainframe centralised IT shop," Partridge said. But there are some problems with Unisys' Windows focus, particularly as the company pushes hard on version 2003. For one thing, big businesses are more interested in the older version, and it could be for another 12 months or more before they start moving to the newer OS. "Our customer base will probably continue on Windows 2000 for a while," Feverston said. Unisys will sell four models: the Aries 510, Aries 520, Orion 530 and Orion 540. Servers can be configured with either 1.5GHz or 2GHz Pentium 4 Xeon processors and to run Windows 2000 Advanced Server, Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition, UnixWare 7.1.3 and SCO Linux Server 4. The 520, 530 and 540 models also can run Windows 2000 Datacenter Server and Windows Server 2003 Datacenter Edition. All four models are scheduled to be available from today, although systems running Windows Server 2003 Datacenter Edition won't ship until 30 May. The Aries 510 can be configured with four, six or eight processors, and starts at $35,000 (about £22,000) with four 1.5GHz Pentium 4 Xeon processors. The 520, which starts at $48,000, can be configured with eight or 16 processors. The Orion 530 is a clustered server made up of two 16-processor cells; its starting price is $120,000. The 540, which sells for $375,000, can be configured with either 16 or 32 processors. Unisys isn't the only company shipping so-called 'big iron' servers that can be partitioned into smaller ones. HP shipped the long-delayed ProLiant DL740 and DL760 servers in February. Prices start at $24,999 with four 1.5GHz Pentium 4 Xeon processors. NEC and IBM have similar servers. But Feverston believes Unisys' "three-year head start" on competitors in the 32-processor Intel server market gives the company a huge advantage. "All the start-up problems are a dot in our rearview mirror," he said. For "all our competitors, that's filling up their windshield." Microsoft apparently agrees. "The Unisys guys certainly are ahead of the crowd," said Jim Hebert, a general manager in Microsoft's Windows Server product management group. Still, in terms of worldwide server shipments, Unisys' claim to fame is the "other" category, ranking a lowly number 21 in fourth-quarter 2002 market share, according to Gartner. But in terms of server revenue, Unisys made a much stronger showing, capturing the number six position. "Unisys is not going to try and put out of business the high-volume kind of players," Partridge said. "Unisys has found an area where their strengths - their background in mainframes - play well to customers who recognise those advantages." "I think the significance of the (server announcement) is limited outside Unisys, because it has a very limited sales engine," Giga Group analyst Richard Fichera said. "This is great technology, a modular design, and it is available for an affordable price. But Unisys doesn't have the sales reach. If IBM or HP had this system, it would sell gangbusters." Joe Wilcox writes for News.com
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