Server Snapshots: IBM System p5 505 Express

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted Mar 19, 2007


The System p5 505 Express from IBM, is a 1U rack server targeted at the small and midsize enterprise (SME) market. It comes in two versions with either dual-core or quad-core processors, has plenty of virtualization features, and has scored very well on several benchmark tests.

With the System p5 505 Express, IBM brings quad core to the 1U rack server space. Will small and midsize enterprises bite?

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"The IBM p5 505 is the industry's first quad-core, processor-based server in a 1U package," says John E. Biebelhausen, offering manager, IBM System p. "Our System p line has also been upgraded with advanced virtualization features based upon AIX and system hardware that enables administrators to create micro-partitions within the processors."

System p's Low-End

IBM System p servers (formerly pSeries) feature the IBM Power5 processor. This technology includes simultaneous multithreading as a means of increasing performance and utilization compared to other servers. They are also comfortable running different applications concurrently on multiple operating systems.

The IBM System p5 505 Express is the dual-core edition. It is designed for SME clients looking for high performance, easy management and inexpensive pricing. The p5 505Q Express is the newer quad-core model. According to Biebelhausen, this version is better suited to SMEs that are upgrading, deploying or adding new Linux or Unix rack and stack servers for such purposes as distributed database serving, ERP and CRM application serving, infrastructure applications, or high-performance computing (HPC) clusters that must be kept up and running.

They can be individually configured according to preferences, but Biebelhausen advises against it. He says IBM has set the best prices for organizations that go with the two principal flavors.

"The p5 505 is ideally suited as a security server for e-mail, firewall, asset protection and identity security," says Biebelhausen. "It is also very good for basic infrastructure applications, such as Web serving, simple database serving, file/print serving and for HPC clustering."

He notes that IBM has observed plenty of market activity around 1U systems and their deployment in infrastructure environments. The trend, he says, appears to be toward the use of multiple 1U servers in a rack.

"The 505 is designed for these purposes as opposed to having more advanced functions," says Biebelhausen. "It really represents the lower-end, low-cost aspect of our System p line."

In terms of competition, IBM references only Sun Microsystems' Sun Fire X4100. Both have a 1U form factor with a similar number of slots and drive bays — two 10K or 15K rpm internal SCSI disk bays, PCI-X 2.0 (two 266 MHz adapter slots).

The big difference is on the processor side. The X4100 is Opteron-powered, whereas IBM's server is a 64-bit 1.65 GHz POWER5+. The Sun box can run Linux and Windows. IBM can also run Linux (not Windows), as well as AIX 5L (V5.2 or later). AIX 5l includes built in security features, such as Kerberos-authenticated users, system hardening to remove unused services from the base operating system, and restricting user access to the system.

"We have superior processor performance [compared] to the Sun X4100," says Biebelhausen.

This 1.7"H x 17.3"W x 28.0"D machine weighs 37.4 pounds and fits in a standard 19-inch, 1U rackmount drawer. It comes standard with 3.8MB L2 cache and 72MB L3 cache. 1GB to 32GB DDR2 SDRAM is available, as well as up to 600GB internal disk storage.

I/O ports include a dual-channel Ultra320 SCSI controller (external SCSI port), a dual-ported Ethernet 10/100/1000 Mbps controller, two USB, two HMC and two system ports. Connectivity support for 4 Gigabit Fibre Channel and 10 Gigabit Ethernet is available as an option. Power requirements are 100v to 127v or 200v to 240v AC.

The p5 505 also comes with a wealth of virtualization options and technologies. This includes the POWER Hypervisor, Dynamic LPAR, Virtual LAN1, Advanced POWER Virtualization (optional), micro-partitioning; shared processor pool; VIOS with IVM; and Partition Load Manager (AIX 5L only).

Sales Numbers

Although IBM has only been in the 1U System p space for about one year, Biebelhausen reports that sales are strong. The p5 505, he says, is a growth area. Although he will not release model-specific sales numbers, he says about a third of all System p business comes from the low end, which includes the 505.

Stamford, Conn. based Gartner provided more in-depth numbers.

"Although the IBM p5 505 model just started shipping in 2006, it had a fairly strong run for the year," says analyst Heeral Joshipura. "Specifically in Q406, it represented 10.1 percent of the overall System p volume for IBM."

Joshipura notes that this compares very well to overall System p growth. Looking at the overall performance for IBM's System p in 4Q06, she says that shipments grew at 1.9 percent year on year.

The p5 505Q Express benchmarks WELL, particularly when running AIX. Noteworthy numbers include:

  • SPECint2000 1,371
  • SPECfp2000 2,610
  • SPECint_rate 2000 70.0
  • SPECfp_rate2000 100
  • SPECjbb2005 63,544
  • rPerf 20.25

The newest quad core 505 version is priced starting at $5,505.

The p5 505 Close Up

Name p5 505 Server Snapshot
Vendor IBM
Platform Power5+
Dimensions This 1.7"H x 17.3"W x 28.0"D machine weighs 37.4 pounds and fits in a standard 19 inch 1U rackmount drawer.
Processor Details Four 64-bit 1.65 GHz POWER5+
Hard Drives Hot-swapable internal SCSI, up to 600GB, two drives with either 10K or 15K rpm disks
Operating Systems AIX 5L Edition: AIX 5L V5.2 or later
OpenPower Edition: SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 for POWER (SLES 9) or later, Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS 4 for POWER (RHEL AS 4) or later
Configuration Options IBM System p5 505 Express (dual core)
IBM System p5 505Q Express (quad core)
Availability This server is currently available.
Warranty Three years

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