IBM Unleashes Super Server

By Clint Boulton (Send Email)
Posted Oct 16, 2000


IBM Monday unleashed its "Turbo" Server. This comes on the wake of recent announcements made by superpower rival Sun Microsystems, which has pledged to create speedier Unix servers in 2001.

Always wary of its competition, especially in the server market, Big Blue has made a pre-emptive strike with its new eServer pSeries 680. It claims the pSeries 680 is the most powerful Unix server to date. IBM promised to make the product it has code-named Turbo available November 17. Big Blue playing third fiddle? Not if they have anything to say about it.

Jim McGaughan, manager of eServer product offerings for IBM, told InternetNews.com in a recent briefing that while Sun and HP boasted of preparing 64-processor servers in Ultrasparc 3 and Superdrome, respectively, his company has created a 24-processor server, which is actually faster.

McGaughan said the burden of creating a smaller, more powerful processor than Sun''s was relieved by Big Blue''s Silicon-on-Insulator (SOI) technology -- an add-on to the standard copper wire used for servers. SOI increases the performance of copper-based processors up to 30 percent by reducing electrical leakage among millions of transistors.

"We''re upping the ante -- big-time," said McGaughan. "We have shattered a full-range of industry benchmarks for what we call the Big Brother to our S80, which we released last year. And we''re doing it with a rather svelte 24-processor unit compare to Sun''s bloated 64-way processor."

McGaughan said the p680 trounces Sun and HP''s biggest servers on every performance measurement with fewer chips (in transaction processing, less than half compared with Sun''s flagship -- the E10000) and at a lower cost. Most significantly for Unix customers, fewer chips can also mean a lower cost for database and other software license charges.

According to IBM, the broken barriers include the world''s SPECweb benchmark for Web server speed and the Transaction Processing Server benchmark for raw power. Of the eight barriers it claims to have shredded, analysts think these two are the most significant: The power benchmark is said to have serviced an unprecedented 200,000 customer orders per minute.

Giga Information Group Vice President Brad Day, who was briefed on the p680, told InternetNews.com it was the fastest server yet.

"What''s compelling about this announcement is that there is a low processor count that provides serious breakthrough performance that puts them back on top," Day said, referring to IBM''s server war with Sun. Sun, by most counts, holds 37 percent to 38 percent of Unix server market revenues to IBM''s 24 to 25 percent. "Probably the most telling is the number of the industry standard benchmarks IBM shatters."

Day said other firms will harp on the fact that they broke a benchmark; however, IBM consistently breaks several.

"Customers don''t care about a firm breaking a single benchmark," Day said. "But they will take notice if a company breaks several."

Day also said that central to McGaughan''s stressing that p680 is a smaller, 24-chip processor than Sun''s future 64-bit hardware, it will save companies space and money considering raw price-performance.

Day further noted that although IBM is late getting in on the capacity-on-demand bandwagon that Sun and HP have been coasting on, IBM will only improve its status with customers. With this technology, customers can get more performance with a simple request and a reboot of the server.

However, despite IBM''s bold statements and product release scheduled for next month, the server revenue market share still positions Sun in the lead, with HP at second, followed closely by IBM.

Bill Claybrook, the research director for Linux and open source software at Aberdeen, told InternetNews.com that though Sun may hold the market share, the number of licenses held by the server trinity is closer than the revenues indicate. Claybrook said one area where IBM and HP hold an advantage over Sun is in the burgeoning Linux market, in which Big Blue and HP have dabbled quite extensively.

"One of the reasons IBM and HP are much more into Linux is that Linux competes very well with the low-end user," Claybrook said. "IBM and HP recognize Linux''s open source model as popular and important."

Big Blue hopes Turbo will vault it into the leader in the UNIX server market. And if not, well, there is always next year when IBM comes out with its next round of product upgrades for Unix.

Bu where does it all end for IBM and its rivals? Claybrook guesses IBM has another three or four years in which to assault the market with new servers before a cap is reached.

"But we really have no idea," Claybrook admitted.

Related Stories:
IBM Unveils Next-Generation E-Business Server
Battling Big Blue
Sun Preaches the Net Effect, Unveils UltraSPARC III
Oracle Shatters Barrier but IBM Begs to Differ


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