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Hardware Today: IBM Server Snapshot Page 2

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted Feb 8, 2005


POWER to the People

Since the announcement of the p5 last May, IBM has steadily expanded its deployment across its server lines. This processor can now be found in three of its major server product lines: iSeries, pSeries, and OpenPower Linux servers. These servers range from simple 1-way architectures through 64-way.

"As the pSeries scales from 1-way to 64-way, customers can use the same applications over the same processor," said Ian Jarman, iSeries product manager at IBM. "Intel, on the other hand, has a 32-bit chip for 1- to 4-way, and the Itanium 64-bit processor to satisfy the high end of the enterprise."

Jarman notes that IBM has added more substance to its on-demand vision by making it possible for iSeries customers to purchase products with additional processors and other elements built in. A key is used to activate more resources as needed, either for a limited period of time or permanently.

One thing to keep in mind is that although p5 may give the company an edge on performance for the moment, the technology to keep an eye on in the long term is Virtualization Engine.

Although performance may not be a pivotal factor in determining chip dominance in the long term, it doesn't hurt that IBM seems to have gotten a jump on its competitors.

"IBM has pushed the rest of the industry by introducing the p5 before the p4 had run out of steam," said Olds. "This processor gives them a clear performance advantage that the rest of the industry players will have a hard time matching."

Virtualization Engine

The Virtualization Engine is software embedded into IBM POWER5-based servers. It brings mainframe virtualization to the Unix server world so these machines can be partitioned into multiple virtual servers per processor. The idea is to increase utilization rates from the 5 percent to 25 percent range commonly found among commodity servers to 80 percent or more.

"Virtualization is the next stage of the server consolidation trend that began in the late '90s," said Jarman. "We have extended virtualization across all our servers in order to reduce cost, optimize IT resource utilization and simplify IT."

Jarman explains it as the combination of technologies and services. Virtualization Engine technologies add micro-partitioning, which allows customers to run several Unix and Linux servers on one system. Enterprises can partition up to 10 services per processor. In addition, the IBM Director Multiplatform offers a single point of control (i.e., one person can manage multiple environments from a single console). This includes workload management and provisioning tools based IBM Tivoli Provisioning Manager, as well as grid capabilities based on Open Grid Services Architecture and WebSphere.

"IBM's virtualization technology allows customers to manage multiple systems from a single point, to view compute capacity as a single pool of resource, and to automatically manage that capacity to achieve business goals," said Olds.

Customers are harnessing these micro-partitioning capabilities to run multiple operating systems. Some, says Jarman, are running the IBM i5 operating system alongside Linux, AIX, and Windows on the same machine. Others are running their core business applications on i5 and other applications on AIX. This enables better utilization and allows IT departments to consolidate multiple servers into a single system.

He describes this as breakthrough technology for Unix, and Olds agrees.

"IBM should be able to overtake HP or Sun to become the No. 2 vendor in the Unix market in the near future," he said, "with a real chance of becoming No. 1 over time if they continue executing at the same level as they are now."

Taking It Easy

After a hectic 2004, don't look for IBM to continue eServer development at a breakneck pace. Instead, look for Big Blue to extend its range of PEEWEE systems into more and larger configurations throughout 2005. "We will continue to build on the success of Power 5 but have no short term plans for dramatic changes," said Jarman.

IBM will be focusing on marketing and selling what it believes to be a superior range of server products ranging from blades to mainframes. As such, it is ready for a major push in all segments. The iSeries will continue to make inroads in the midrange arena, the pSeries is on the offensive in the Unix space, the xSeries hopes to make a major dent in Intel's empire, and OpenPower is gaining strength in the Linux marketplace.

One thing to keep in mind is that although p5 may give the company an edge on performance for the moment, the technology to keep an eye on in the long term is Virtualization Engine.

"This technology will allow customers to move average system utilization from 10 percent to 20 percent up to 60 percent to 75 percent, which will have a huge impact on costs," said Olds. "I believe that server virtualization is the battlefield on which the new server wars will be fought."

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