IBM Takes High-end Perks to the Midrange

By Clint Boulton (Send Email)
Posted Nov 11, 2002


Swooping in to undercut the likes of Sun Microsystems and HP, IBM Monday unveiled a new eight-way Unix server -- the eServer pSeries 650 -- equipped with the Armonk, N.Y. company's latest 64-bit POWER4+ processor.

With the release, Big Blue is essentially continuing its strategy of taking performance and autonomic computing capabilities from its high-end server products, such as the p690 (aka Regatta), and bundling them into the midrange servers such as the p650. One autonomic feature is the Dynamic Processor De-allocation, which is designed to monitor the server for potential system failures. Big Blue brandishes a new, 8-way Unix server to pry customers from Sun and HP; analyst says its a smooth ride.

Replacing the more costly p660, the p650 is geared for running such applications as enterprise resource planning, supply chain management, customer relationship management and business intelligence at anywhere from small- and medium-sized businesses to divisions of large enterprises and remote offices.

The new machine is also the first server fitted with IBM's new POWER4+ chips, which the company said are based on the .13 micron fabrication process and consume less power than comparable chips from Sun. POWER4+ is available in the p650 available with 1.2 and 1.45 gigahertz. The POWER4 chip debuted October 2001 with the Regatta line, but was crafted on the .18 fabrication process.

Promising a "more for your money, honey approach," Jim McGaughan, director of IBM eServer strategy, said the strategy is vital to help IBM vault past HP and Sun in the market for midrange servers. IBM's p650 will compete with Sun's v880 and Sun Fire 3800 servers, as well as HP's midrange suite, including the rp8400 and rp7410.

"We told customers we were going to deliver uncompromising servers and that we don't want customers to make concessions for performance," McGaughan said. "We're coming into the midrange market with guns blazing."

Charles King, senior industry analyst for Mountain View, Calif.'s Sageza Group, said the play is more evidence of Big blue moving technology from the higher end down to its midrange and low-end servers, providing users with serious power enhancements at much more reasonable price points.

"It's a pretty interesting strategy," King told internetnews.com. "Whenever you're dealing with proprietary technology, it's natural for vendors to get as much mileage out of that technology as they can. I compare it to the Rolls Royce analogy. The Volkswagen bug will get you there, but the Rolls is a much better ride. They're saying 'We have the Rolls Royce products, now what can we do to make our VW more comfortable, roadworthy, and faster to get more value.'"

King said IBM has developed a half dozen p650s with different configurations to please a vast majority of customers.

"You'd expect that kind of customization in a lower end product, but when you're talking about servers that cost $30,000..." King said. "These are geared to sell in volume. IBM is saying 'here is our product out of the box and if you need the special stuff we can do that'."

The new server offers up to eight dynamic partitions and runs the AIX 5L operating system, including Version 5.2, and Linux simultaneously in separate partitions.

With a starting price of $29,995, IBM plans to roll out the pSeries 650 December 6. The device will offer native Linux support in the first quarter of next year.

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