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Regatta Sets Sail

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Oct 4, 2001


After building much anticipation and amid a flurry of activity from other high-end server vendors in the past two weeks, IBM Thursday launched its long-awaited, high-powered Unix server that up until now had been code-named "Regatta."

Built using technology from the Project eLiza initiative, the now officially named eServer p690 crowns Big Blue''s five-year effort to deliver a new class of Unix systems that incorporates microprocessor breakthroughs and mainframe technologies.

After building much anticipation and amid a flurry of activity from other high-end server vendors in the past two weeks, IBM Thursday launched its long-awaited, high-powered Unix server that up until now had been code-named "Regatta."

The innovations made to the p690 were designed for both server consolidation and large, single-system applications. They also allow for multiple p690 servers to be linked together to create supercomputers powered by more than 1,000 processors.

The p690 attempts this with fewer, more powerful processors that deliver greater reliability and lower electricity, maintenance, operating, and system administrator costs, thus translating into lower total cost of ownership.

The cornerstone of the p690 is IBM''s Power4 microprocessor. The "server on a chip" contains two one-GHz-plus processors, a high-bandwidth system switch, a large memory cache, and I/O capabilities. The server was designed this way to conserve energy and dramatically outperform other servers that have more than twice as many processors. The Power4 processor pumps data between the memory cache and the processor at nearly 125 gigabytes per second, or the equivalent of moving 25 full-length DVD movies in a single second.

The p690''s palm-sized, eight-processor, multichip module has the equivalent processing power found in the larger system boards of other high-end servers. These ultra-dense building blocks are designed to contribute to the server''s lower cost of ownership by providing more computing power in less floor space while consuming less power than other systems.

The p690 can operate as a single large server or be partitioned into as many as 16 "virtual" servers, running any combination of the AIX 5L and Linux. These virtual servers differ from the more common "hard" partitions that require at least four chips. The p690 is also designed to dynamically reconfigure partitions to meet changing workload demands without being taken offline.

The p690 is currently the only Unix server to offer multiple layers of self-healing technologies that enable the server to continue operating through major failures and system errors rather than offering manual hot-swapping of already-failed components or simple failure isolation within a partition, according to IBM.

The p690 runs AIX 5L and is ready for 64-bit Linux.

Pricing for the p690 starts at $450,000 for an 8-way, 1.1 GHz system with 8 GB of memory and 36.4 GB of storage. This is less that one-third of the entry-level price of Sun Microsystems''s Sun Fire 15K introduced last week.

The the p690 is scheduled to begin shipping in volume in December 2001. Initial customers already include Raytheon, Ahold Corporation, Telia Net, Tokyo Metro University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences.

Related Stories:
Big Blue Answers Sun''s Fire with Cooler Processors, Prices
Sun Takes on the Mainframe With Sun Fire 15K
New IBM Servers Spur on Pricing War With Sun
Hewlett-Packard Heats Up Unix Server Wars With Rebate for Superdome


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