Hardware Today: Fujitsu Server Snapshot

Specialization works well in the medical profession, where the human body has changed little in the past several-thousand years. In the IT area, however, evolution is measured in mere months rather than thousands of years, and too much specialization leads to extinction. That is the problem Fujitsu faced with its server line. Although it had a solid reputation and customer base in the high-end server space, the market was evolving. So Fujitsu expanded its offerings into the x86 and Itanium markets.

Fujitsu is getting ready to bid adieu to PrimePower and make the volume market its prime number. Will Primergy and PrimeQuest fit the bill?

"We continue to offer our customers choice as a differentiator," says Graham Kelly, director of  enterprise product marketing, Fujitsu Computer Systems in Sunnyvale, Calif. "We offer a broad portfolio of products from PCs driving end-user applications though network-facing rack and blade systems, to mission-critical application and database servers."

Recent Server Snapshots

Fujitsu maintained its No. 5 position in server sales in 2005, according IDC's oft-referenced server revenue survey. But those figures also show a continuing shift in what customers are buying. Although total global annual server sales figures of $51.3 billion were the highest in five years, fourth quarter sales in 2005 were slightly below those of fourth-quarter 2004.

The entire market wasn't down, however. The volume server market exhibited 7.3 percent growth, while the midrange server revenue dropped 11.5 percent, and high-end enterprise servers declined 1.7 percent. As a result of this shift to smaller servers, total revenue fell by 0.2 percent, while the number of units sold rose 10.6 percent.

These trends are reflected in Fujitsu's own sales numbers. According to Gartner, although the company's revenue was relatively flat in 2005 — easing up from $2.67 in 2004 to $2.69 in 2005 — it shipped 14.6 percent more units last year, outpacing the unit shipment growth rates of HP, IBM, and Sun.

Triple Threat

To target a broad range of customers and applications, Fujitsu manufactures servers in three categories. At the top of the line is its PrimePower brand of Unix servers. PrimePower servers use SPARC processors that adhere to the SPARC v9 standard. PrimePower servers constitute the bulk of Fujitsu's North American server sales. They scale up from one to as many as 128 SPARC64 V processors, each with up to 4 MB of on-chip Level 2 cache. They come with up to 320 PCI slots (Model 2500), and up to 8 GB of RAM per processor. The processors on the Models 900, 1500, and 2500 can be upgraded in the field without downtime. Running on the Solaris operating system, PrimePower's fast bus technology combines well with the SPARC processors to enhance performance.

Although the servers don't scale quite as high as PrimePower systems, Fujitsu's PrimeQuest line can hardly be considered low-end. In fact, the company characterizes them as mainframe-class systems for Linux and Windows. PrimeQuest servers use Intel's Itanium2 64-bit processor — up to 32 of them. They also have 1 TB of memory and 128 PCI-X I/O slots. According to Kelly, PrimeQuest has made inroads into the high-end Linux/Windows markets with hundreds of active installations globally.

Initially, he notes, most of the PrimeQuest servers were used for Linux systems, but Windows-based applications, such as SQL Server, are starting to gain momentum. Accordingly, the company offers this platform in a wide range of operating system configurations — Windows Server Enterprise Edition, Datacenter Edition, SUSE Enterprise Linux, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

"We are beginning to ramp up activity in North America as our customers start looking at migrating legacy applications to new platforms or reach tipping points of scalability on their large SQL Server and Oracle databases," says Kelly.

For x86 processors, Fujitsu has the lower-end Primergy line, which offers tower, rackmount, and blade servers. These cover the spectrum from single processor to 16-way systems intended for database or virtualization applications. As a result, Primergy contains the largest selection of models and the greatest choice in processors.

The most recent addition to the line is the RX220 S2, a 1U rackmount server with two single or dual-core Opteron Processors, 16 GB of RAM, and two hot-swappable Serial ATA drive bays. The RX220 is designed for use as a low-power consumption node for high performance computing, with or without hard drives. Like the other Primergy servers, it incorporates Fujitsu's new Cool-Safe cooling technology, which provides better air flow for use in rack-dense installations. During the past year, in addition to incorporating larger and faster disks, the CPU options have grown to include the 64-bit AMD Opteron and Intel Xeon processors with EM64T technology.

"The EM64T Nocona processors have allowed much larger address spaces to be utilized much more efficiently than before by environments such as VMware and applications such as Oracle and SAP," says Kelly. "This has resulted in much larger configurations of servers being deployed than was the case a year ago."

Like everything it touches in the server space, though, "low-end" isn't quite correct. Certainly, the RX100 is available for around $1,000. But other Primergy models, such as the RX800, sell for almost a quarter of a million dollars. Although not quite in $1 million-plus category of PrimeQuest and PrimePower, it is unlikely that Primergy servers will be gracing the aisles of your local Fry's Electronics store any time soon.

PrimePower Sun-Set

While Primergy and PrimeQuest will continue on their roadmaps, 2006 marks the end of the PrimePower line in its current incarnation. Later this year, Fujitsu will join the PrimePower line with Sun's Sun Fire servers. These combined product offerings have been a long time in coming — both companies first announced them back in 2004.

"We will be moving to the Advanced Product Line (APL) with Sun providing significant new performance and feature capabilities for SPARC/Solaris applications," says Kelly. "More details of this new product family will be available in a joint public announcement with Sun later this year."

For the other two lines, however, Kelly isn't giving much away beyond incremental changes. The PrimeQuest servers, he says, will begin using the new dual-core Montecito processors when Intel releases them later this year.

"We will be updating all of these product families this year with new performance, capacity, and flexibility features," says Kelly. "Our customers will continue to be able to choose the optimum operating environment [Unix, Linux, or Windows] for their applications that drive their businesses, with the knowledge that their choice will be backed by high-quality, high-performance products from Fujitsu."

Fujitsu Servers, At a Glance

Server Line
Processor Types
Processor Range
Operating Systems
PrimeQuest Mainframe-class platforms for hosting Linux and Windows environments, they combine Fujitsu mainframe design disciplines with the Intel Itanium 2 processor to deliver a server with high performance, availability, and flexibility. Itanium 2 (Madison) 1 to 32 Windows Server Enterprise Edition, Datacenter Edition, Novell SUSE Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 440
From $75,000 to more than $1 million for large configurations
PrimePower Servers that combine fast bus technology and the latest in SPARC processor development, to provide value, performance, and scalability in a Solaris environment, as well as flexible partitioning and ECC across all data paths for reliability SPARC64 V-1.3+GHz, 1.8+ GHzm, and 2.+GHz processor speeds 1 to 128 SPARC64 Solaris 8, 9, and 10 Workgroup Servers
Midrange Servers
Enterprise Servers
$6,400 (for the 250) to more than $1 million (for any of the Enterprise systems)
Primergy High-performance and reliable servers for mainstream Windows and Linux deployments; offers a wide range of products from blade servers to 8-/16-way systems for database or virtualization applications Pentium D, AMD Opteron, 64-bit Xeon, Xeon MP, Itanium-2 1- to 16-way, depending on the processor type Windows, SUSE Linux, Red Hat Linux, VMware ESX Server Rack (RX)
Tower (TX)
Blade (BX)
From $1,000 (for the RX100) to $245,000 (for the RX800)

This article was originally published on May 8, 2006
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