Server Snapshots: Spotlight on Unisys

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted Feb 26, 2007


Unisys continues to offer three main product lines — ES7000, ES3000 and ClearPath mainframe systems. It recently upgraded each with the latest chip technology.

In IT circles, Unisys servers generally fall under the category of supporting actor rather than star. Loyalty runs deep within its fan base, however. Its three main product lines, ES7000, ES3000 and ClearPath, were recently upgraded with the latest chip technology.

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The flagship product, of course, is the ES7000 server. It supports both Intel 64-bit Xeon MP and Itanium 2 processors (single- and dual-core). It can have anywhere from 4 to 32 processors and is targeted at the high-end of the x86 market, as both a consolidation platform and a Unix alternative. A few weeks ago, we profiled the Unisys ES7000/one.

According to Dan Olds, principal of Gabriel Consulting Group, Unisys scored many firsts with its ES7000 systems. It was the first to credibly scale the x86 architecture to Unx-like levels and the first to provide partitioning.

"The customers I talk to who own the systems are generally big fans — the problem is that there just aren't very many," says Olds. "It's kind of a shame, in that with the rush toward x86 server consolidation, the ES7000 isn't a bigger player."

Part of the issue may be that hardware sales are a relatively small portion of Unisys' revenue. Although the OEM is regarded in server circles as merely being part of the supporting cast, the company's revenue for 2006 totaled $5.76 billion. That's equivalent to the annual server income Dell or Sun generates.

However, the vast majority of its earnings came from services. Only $669 million represents server sales.

"The ES7000 accounts for about 20 [percent] to 25 percent of our server sales," says John Keller, senior marketing manager, ES7000 Enterprise Servers at Unisys Corporation of Blue Bell, Penn. "No other vendor offers a true capacity on-demand environment for Windows or Linux across both x86/x64 and IA64 Intel architectures."

He's referring to the ES7000 Real-Time Capacity (RTC) program. Servers come with extra processors built in and are only activated as their business needs grow. Keller says there are three main categories of ES7000 clients adopting RTC systems: Those expecting to grow over time; those not sure if they will grow or not; and those wishing to ensure they maintain their SLAs and system availability.

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In addition to shifting to the new processors, Unisys has changed the system board, sped up the bus and doubled the amount of memory — as much as 2 TB RAM is now available. It has also been freshened up in terms of power draw and cooling demands.

"If spikes in workload, growth or processor failure cause a system to perform poorly, RTC can alleviate that condition by temporarily or permanently adding additional processing capacity virtually on the fly," says Keller. "Customers do not need to waste precious days ordering and waiting for a shipment — they can have the capacity turned on in a matter of minutes."

ES3000

Lower down the Unisys food chain is the ES3000. It is deployed, for example, with small to midsize business' financial applications that do not require a machine the size of the ES7000. Like its higher-end cousin, the ES3000 includes the latest Intel dual- and quad-core processors. In the 4P category, for example, are the 6U ES3140 and the 4U ES3140L, both of which have Xeon MP processors (up to 3.66GHz). Several other form factors are available, including the 5U and 2U. Unisys touts their high reliability as a major feature. The servers are available in rack or tower versions.

In terms of competition, the ES3000 competes with such systems as the: HP ProLiant DL100 and ProLiant ML Servers; IBM x3200, x3400, x3500 and the x3800; and Dell PowerEdge 2900, 2950, 6800 and 6850.

"The measurable initial failure rate of all of our servers is so small as to be imperceptible," says Jack Hartl, Unisys ES3000 program director. "Where there is a requirement for a combination of the scale-out and scale-up, Unisys ES3000 offers a complete line of 2-socket to 32-socket servers."

One model that has disappeared from the ES3000 line, however, is a server blade. Unisys toyed with a blade for a short while. After releasing its first blade, Unisys dropped it last year.

"Our blade didn't have NEBs compliancy, so we are not longer offering this product," says Hartl. "The ES3220L has been able to address all of the workload requirements that once were put on that blade."

ClearPath

Any IT history buff is familiar with the fact that Unisys was a major mainframe pioneer. It continues to offer mainframes, and the platform is far from stagnant. According to Rod Sapp, director of marketing for ClearPath systems and solutions at Unisys, the company refreshed its entire ClearPath product line this past year.

"ClearPath appeals to clients looking for the most secure, most demanding transaction intensive environments," says Sapp. "Packaged core business application solutions are available for the financial, telecommunications and transportation industries."

The company also has plenty of mainframe customs in the public sector. Many such customers have been using the product for a long time. Sapp reports a high rate of loyalty among the client base — and not just from stubborn mainframe hold outs with decades of investment in business logic that won't translate easily over to Windows or Unix.

"We gain a number of new clients each quarter — primarily driven by our ISVs and packaged applications," says Sapp.

What's in the pipeline?

The ClearPath operating systems will soon be ported to run on an Intel infrastructure in a virtualized environment (i.e., a common physical partition can run multiple instances of multiple operating systems, such as ClearPath, Windows and Linux).

Unisys is also rolling a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) into the next generation of ClearPath. This will enable clients to leverage their investments in legacy solutions and extend them using contemporary development platforms, such as Java and .Net. Unisys will soon be introducing new virtual connectors that strip out the overhead of standardized networking protocols and provide a secure SOA environment.

"The value of the mainframe has never been more appreciated," says Sapp. "They offer virtually impenetrable security, excellent environmental efficiencies, the highest utilization levels, the easiest system management and the best service levels."

There is the matter, though, of a rather large competitor in the mainframe space — IBM. ClearPath goes up against the dominant IBM System Z mainframe (and the IBM System I, in the North America community banking, as well). As a result, Unisys struggles to gain much attention in a market where the IBM mainframe dominates near unilaterally.

"Unisys has a good mainframe offering but will face increasing difficulty breaking out of their market niches unless they can do something to spur application availability and get attention in the broader market," concludes Olds. "Like the ES7000, customers who have them, like them ... but there are not all that many customers."

Unisys Servers at a Glance

Server Family
Target Deployment
Processor Types
Processor Range
Operating Systems
Servers
Cost
ES7000/one ES7000 servers focus on higher-end computing needs. With flexibility to support both Intel Xeon MP and Itanium 2 processors (single or dual-core), the ES7000/one Enterprise Server delivers high levels of scalability, performance and reliability. 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 4 to 32 processors Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition, Enterprise Edition and Datacenter Edition; SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 & 10; Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 & 5; and VMware ESX Server 3.x ES7000/one Xeon configurations start at $29,900 and go up to $348,000; Itanium configurations start at $45,000 and go up to $600,000.
ES3000 Midrange Servers The ES3000 family is a more cost-efficient midrange line designed for one-stop clients looking to support all ES7000 or Unisys ClearPath mainframe solutions. Xeon DP and MP with dual- and quad-core processors with 32-bit and EM64T capabilities on all models. 1 to 4 sockets with Xeon DP (dual and quad core) and Xeon MP (dual core) Windows 200x Standard and Enterprise AS (32-bit and 64-bit memory extensions), SUSE Linux Version 9 (64-bit memory extensions), and Red Hat Linux 3 and 4 with ES and AS (both 32 bit and 64-bit memory extensions), and VMware ESX Server 3.x ES3140
ES3140L
ES3220
ES3220L
Xeon configurations start at $2,343 and go up to $59,000.
ClearPath Plus Dorado Series ClearPath Plus Dorado Series servers are good for Java/J2EE and real-time applications. Dorado systems offer security and high service levels. Standard pricing models (fixed performance over time typically 5 years) or pay for use models are available. Unisys proprietary CMOS ASIC instruction processors 4 to 32 processors. For the largest systems, the Dorado 380 and Dorado 390 can run up to 32 processors in a single image or up to eight partitions of four processors in each partition. Total quantity of processors varies by model. Intel processors as used by the ES7000/one can be collocated in the same system. OS 2200 Unisys proprietary operating system. If Intel processor modules are installed, Microsoft Windows and Linux operating systems can also be run. Specifically, 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 390
380
350
340
330
320
Cost varies based on configuration.
ClearPath Plus Libra Series Libra systems offer a combination of both mainframe and mainstream capabilities. CMOS and Intel Xeon processors Single module: up to 4 processors; Dual module: up to 8 processors; Four modules: up to 16 processors. One image can be from 1 to 16 processors; A module is always fully populated with 2 dual-MCP CMOS processors; Up to four MCP CMOS images per cabinet
Libra 300 is an Intel server with 2 or 4 processors (3.16GHz and 3/66GHz).
ClearPath MCP; Virtual Machine for ClearPath MCP (MCPvm); Microsoft Windows Server 2003; Enterprise Edition; Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Datacenter Edition; Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 (SLES 9); Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 (RHEL 4) 690
680
300
Cost varies based on configuration.

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