Server Snapshots: Unisys ES7000/one

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted Jan 22, 2007


In the movie Highlander, all the immortals come to New York City for the Gathering. As the tag line went, "In the end, there can be only one." Similarly, after years of having a variety of naming conventions and server types within the Unisys ES7000 category, we are left with one model standing — the Unisys ES7000/one.

Unisys' ES7000 line has been consolidated into one extremely configurable 3U server building block that, however customized, occupies the same footprint.

"We decided to standardize our various Itanium and Xeon models into one platform," says Mark Feverston, vice president of enterprise servers and storage at Unisys Corp or Blue Bell, Penn. "Customers now have one server and they decide the processor type and configuration they prefer."

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The old ES7000/600 and ES7000/500 systems were Xeon based, whereas the ES7000/400 was an Itanium machine. However, they represented three distinctly different servers, each with its own hardware and specs.

Now, things are much simpler. Unisys offers one expandable ES7000 3U server building block. However you configure it, the same footprint applies. It comes in the same box, uses the same management software, has the same NICs, HBAs and basic architecture. The only real difference is whether it uses Itanium, Xeon or a combination of both. For example, a Unisys ES7000/one might come with eight Itanium sockets and 24 Xeons. The main restriction is that the same OS image cannot be shared between a Xeon and Itanium chip.

The Unisys ES7000/one is targeted at a variety of markets, including infrastructure standardization, consolidation, virtualization, large transactional databases, business intelligence and migrations to open systems. It is also the only server on the market that offers Itanium and Xeon in one box.

"Unisys is focused on scalable x86 systems in the 4- to 32-socket bracket," says Gartner analyst John Enck. "Unisys was the first to market with a highly scalable x86 system back in 2000, and it continues its focus on a 'x86 mainframe' approach.'"

At that time, Unisys pioneered Big Iron Windows — quite a hard sell back then. Windows was attempting to bridge the gap between its departmental strengths and its enterprise aspirations. Unisys led the way, introducing the first hardware running Windows 2000 Server, Datacenter Edition.

"Back then, we had to argue the point that Intel and Microsoft were a credible alternative for mission-critical data center applications," says Feverston. "Now that doesn't even come up. Intel and Microsoft are definitely established within the data center."

After being exclusively Microsoft for several years, Unisys introduced the first Linux version of the ES7000 several years ago. However, the vast majority of its sales remain on Windows. Feverston notes that the company's Linux business is growing. He says Linux works well on the ES7000/one, either as one large OS image or running multiple smaller images.

He believes the market will continue to move toward more consolidation via virtualization. But rather than blades, or multiple small rack servers within a virtualized environment, he thinks Unisys' scale-up architecture is the way forward. A single ES7000/one, after all, provides plenty of capacity on one system capable of scaling up enough for huge applications and databases. At the same time, it also has enough room to be used to scale out using lots of virtual machines.

"Probably the most economical and flexible approach is to scale out within a scale-up platform," says Feverston. "As you end up with fewer large systems and fewer small systems, you create a far more secure environment than if you tried to harness multiple blades."

Basic Specs

This Unisys high-end server comes with 64-bit Xeon and dual-core Xeon options, as well as single- or dual-core Itanium 2 chips. These processors are divided into cells — four processors to one cell. The minimum number of processors is four and the maximum is 32. Up to 512 GB of RAM is available, as well as up to 40 I/O channels. Internal storage varies from one to three SAS drives (each 72 GB) per cell. However, most Unisys clients use only the internal storage for booting and connect up to some sort of SAN for most storage requirements. Unisys also supports booting from a SAN, so some customers have no internal storage at all.

"Under the Unisys approach, the hardware is only a part of the solution," says Enck. "The hardware is typically sold with value-added services for tuning, consolidation or availability."

With its mainframe origins, and its years of experience on high-end Windows, Unisys has evolved a series of best practices for this market. It offers customers assistance with the deployment of sophisticated applications and tips on how to add business value. Feverston states that such services are often used, for example, when people are moving from RISC/Unix to a Microsoft platform.

Feverston cites proven high availability as one reason people are willing to switch from RISC or Unix to Windows. Since 2001, Unisys has been engaged in monitoring its Intel Xeon-based ES7000 servers in many of its customers' production environments. The purpose of this activity is to determine their real-world availability. Data was collected from 68 non-clustered ES7000 servers. 78 percent of systems delivered 100 percent availability. Overall, the Unisys ES7000 achieved an average of 99.996 percent availability.

The company has also done well on TPC benchmarks. On the TPC-C, for example, the ES7000 scored the best $/tpmC of any Intel 8x system and overall best Intel 8x performance. On the TPC-H test, it won in $/tpmC compared to non-clustered systems in the 3000 GB category.

Competitive Landscape

In terms of competition, Enck says IBM is the only other significant presence in this part of the market. The IBM System x3950 competes at the lower end of the ES7000/one Xeon space, while the IBM System p comes up in higher-end bids. Feverston also notes competition for Itanium business from HP Integrity midrange models and the HP Superdome. With less frequency, the Sun Fire x4600 comes up during the bidding process.

"IBM doesn't want to go beyond eight processors on System x, so beyond that they switch to System p," says Feverston. "IBM doesn't have an Itanium play and HP doesn't have a scalable Xeon play. We allow customers to use both yet standardize on one platform."

Unisys ES7000/one Server Close Up

Name ES7000/one Server
Vendor Unisys
Platform x86 (includes x64) and/or IA64
Footprint 5.25" (3U) H x 17.3" W x 27.5" D per cell (13.34 cm x 43.94 cm x 69.85 cm per cell).
Each cell has four processors
Processor Details 64-bit Intel Xeon processor, Dual-Core Intel Xeon processor 7000 series, Dual-Core Intel Xeon processor 7100 series, Intel Itanium 2 processors, Dual-Core Intel Itanium 2 processor 9000 series
Hard Drives Up to 3 x 72 GB SAS hard drives per cell
Operating Systems Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition, Enterprise Edition and Datacenter Edition; SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9; Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4; and VMware ESX Server 3.x
Configuration Options Starts at 4 CPUs, expandable to 32 CPUs (32 sockets, 64 cores); from 4 to 512 GB of memory; Xeon configurations start at $29,900 and go up to $348,000. Itanium configurations start at $45,000 and go up to $600,000
Sample configurations:
Small Xeon: ES7000/one Xeon MP server containing one 3U cell with a total of four Xeon 7110 processors, 48MB of Shared Cache, 4GB of memory, five PCI-X adaptor slots; two 1 Gigabit Ethernet ports; two internal Serial Attach 72GB SCSI (SAS) disk drives, one Emulex FC Optical HBA to connect to external SAN; one built-in DVD/CD-RW drive -- list price from $29,000.
Large Xeon: ES7000/one Xeon MP server domain containing eight 3U cells with a total of 32 Xeon 7140 processors, 48MB of Shared Cache per cell, 32GB of memory, forty PCI-X adaptor slots, sixteen 1 Gigabit Ethernet ports, support for up to 24 internal Serial Attach SCSI (SAS) disk drives (separately ordered), one Emulex FC Optical HBA, built-in DVD/CD-RW drives. List price from $306,000.
Small Itanium: ES7000/one Itanium 2 server domain containing one 3U cell with a total of four Dual-Core Itanium 2 processors (9015), 64MB of Shared Cache, 4GB of memory, five PCI-X adaptor slots; two 1 Gigabit Ethernet ports; support for up to three internal SAS drives, built-in DVD/CD-RW drive. List price from $45,000. Larger Itanium; ES7000/one Itanium 2 server domain containing eight 3U cells with 32 Dual-Core Itanium 2 processors (9050), 64MB of Shared Cache per cell, 64GB of memory (expandable to 512GB), Forty PCI-X adaptor slots, sixteen 1 Gigabit Ethernet ports, support for up to twenty four SAS drives, one Emulex FC Optical HBA and built-in DVD/CD-RW drives. List price from $620,000
Availability This server is currently available.
Warranty Three years

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