Hardware Today: Unisys Server Snapshot

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted Apr 10, 2006

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From its mainframe roots, Unisys has evolved into a company that does a solid amount of business filling a very specific niche — higher-end Wintel boxes. Recently, the OEM added 64-bit and Linux options. More recently, it introduced Xeon MP and dual-core machines as well as its first blade server.

Streamlined server lines, 64-bit support, and Linux compatibility have enabled this server pioneer to keep pace with the times.

"Unisys offers the greatest levels of configuration flexibility with our ES7000 servers," says Mark Feverston, vice president of ES7000 Servers at Unisys.

The ES7000 is the Unisys banner for a wide range of high-performance and reliable Intel-based servers. Unfortunately, the server brand became somewhat diluted in recent times due to an abundance of configurations — each with its own model number — as well as the division of the ES7000 into two sub-brands, known as the Orion and the Aries liens.

Recent Server Snapshots

Feverston notes that the Aries and Orion labels confused customers and analysts alike. Also, he says, the model numbers proved a little cumbersome. For example, a 4x ES7000 could be expanded to an 8x, a 12x, a 16x, and so on. Using model numbers for each of those steps muddied the message that Unisys considers pivotal — the scalability of its servers

As a result, the company streamlined its server line to remove confusion. Without eliminating any functionality or capabilities, it made it easier to understand and chose from its products and thus reinforced the ES7000 brand.

"We simplified our naming conventions by eliminating the Aries vs. Orion nomenclature as well as the individual model numbers," says Feverston. "We do not provide any individual configuration model numbers anymore. When we showed this to the server analyst community we received unanimous approval, which alone is a benefit to our brand."

Now, for example, the name "ES7000/400 Series" covers all configurations of the 400 Series as opposed to former half-dozen model numbers that were really just variations of the same basic server. If the customer likes the base 400 Series features, she can then chose from various options during the server selection process.

Unisys Server Sentinel manages all Windows-based ES7000 models. The software evolved from the company's 50-plus years of mainframe management experience. It delivers platform management for ES7000 environments, including self-healing for hardware fault conditions. While Server Sentinel provides systems management software for the operating system and hardware layer of a Windows-based ES7000 server environment, Application Sentinel delivers a suite of self-managing capabilities for the application and database layers of a Windows-based data center.

Changing Grid

Since last year's Unisys server snapshot, the company has made some major changes in its offerings. The ES7000/500 Series has been dropped off the grid, as it has just gone end of life. It can still be found on the Web site, but is no longer actively marketed. In its place is the new ES7000/600 Series.

"The ES7000/600 Series supports Xeon MP with Extended Memory 64 Technology [EM64T] processors," says Feverston. "It is ideal platform for clients who have applications or databases that require large memory addressability."

The 600 Series comes in 3U form factor cells. Processor speeds range from 2.83 GHz to 3.3 GHz. It supports anywhere from 4 to 32 processors (in increments of 4), like all other ES7000 systems. In terms of memory, the 600 series has 4 GB to 512 GB, and 48 MB to 384 MB of shared cache.

Other features for the server line include the ability to split into partitions — servers can be left as one large partitions or divided into a maximum of eight partitions. Three SCSI drives are available per server cell; 5 to 40 PCI-X slots are provided for internal I/O (up to a total 88 when external I/O is factored in). The servers run a variety of operating systems — Windows 2000 Advanced Server and Datacenter Server; Windows Server 2003 (32- and 64- bit), Enterprise Edition and Datacenter Edition; SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (32- and 64- bit); and Red Hat Linux Advanced Server (32- and 64-bit).

"You can expect to see increased flexibility in our servers. The new systems will incorporate enhancements that simplify server management in both Microsoft and open source environments." — Mark Feverston, vice president of ES7000 Servers, Unisys

While the ES7000/600 Series is Xeon-based, the 400 series server is built around the Intel Itanium 2 processor. Unisys targets this model at the mission-critical data center market.

"The 400 Series provides the high-performance database and business intelligence foundations normally associated with proprietary RISC systems," says Feverston. "It is a cost-effective alternative to Unix implementations."

Like the 600 Series, it is sold with 4 to 32 processors (again in increments of 4). The operating choices are similar to those listed above for the 600 Series.

For a less expensive, low-end to midrange alternative, Unisys continues to sell the ES3000. It runs Windows 200x, SUSE Linux Version 9, and Red Hat Linux 3. It comes with 1 to 4 Xeon MP processors with 32-bit and EM64T capabilities on all models.

The ES3000 server line now also includes a new blade, Unisys' first foray into this market segment. The 3105 blade, however, is far from a low-end machine. It is designed as a solution to problems encountered with midrange servers, like space constraints. According to Feverston, the 3105 is best employed as a front-end communications system for ES7000 implementations, such as firewalls, security services, or terminal services.

Future Plans

Moving forward, Unisys said it will be making several major announcements later this month, which Feverston remains tight-lipped about. He hinted vaguely about this development easing of the process of building up instead of out.

"You can expect to see increased flexibility in our servers," he says. "The new systems will incorporate enhancements that simplify server management in both Microsoft and open source environments."

In the meantime, the company has begun rolling out dual-core chips. Unlike many server vendors who rushed dual-core machines onto the market last summer, Unisys has taken its time with this new technology. It only recently shipped its first Xeon MP dual-core processors.

"While it is very early in the product life-cycle, initial sales of dual-core models are commensurate with expectations and in line with previous new processor introductions," says Feverston. "We expect to see a gradual transition from single core to dual core over the coming months."

Unisys Servers, At a Glance

Server Family
Target Deployment
Processor Types
Processor Range
Operating Systems
ES7000 600 Series ES7000/600 servers focus on higher-end computing needs typically required by companies looking to standardize on Intel throughout the data center. These business-critical applications require the highest levels of manageability, scalability, performance, and availability. Xeon MP with EM64T 4 to 32 processors (available in increments of 4) Windows 2000 Advanced Server & Datacenter Server; Windows Server 2003 (32- and 64- bit), Enterprise Edition & Datacenter Edition; SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (32- and 64- bit); Red Hat Linux Advanced Server (32- and 64-bit) ES7000 600 Series Pricing for the 600 Series ranges from $32,000 to $412,000
ES7000 400 Series The ES7000/400 servers meet to most stringent requirements of the mission-critical datacenter. The 400 series provides the high performance database and business intelligence foundations normally associated with proprietary RISC systems The ES7000/400 Series is a cost effective alternative to Unix implementations. Itanium-2 4 to 32 processors (increments of 4) Windows Server 2003 (64-bit) Enterprise Edition & Datacenter Edition; SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (64-bit); Red Hat Linux Advanced Server (64-bit) ES7000 400 Series Prices range from $40,000 to $700,000
ES3000 Midrange Servers Less expensive, low-end to midrange line designed for "one stop" clients looking to support all ES7000 or Unisys ClearPath mainframe solutions Xeon MP with single and dual core processors with 32 bit and EM64T capabilities on all models 1 to 4 (Xeon DP and Xeon MP) Windows 200x, SUSE Linux Version 9, and Red Hat Linux 3 3120
ES3105 Blade Server
ES3105 Blade 2-processor socket Servers, ES3120 and ES3120L 2- processor socket processor servers range from $2,779 to $44,579; ES3140 and ES3140L 4-processor socket servers range from $5,600 to $72,320

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