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IBM Powers New Servers, Chip Tech

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IBM (Quote, Chart) is hoping to knock Sun Microsystem’s (Quote, Chart) latest star Galaxy Unix servers out of alignment.
IBM goes all out for SMBs with new Power5+ machines, which include a special Quad Core design.

The Armonk, N.Y., company unveiled System p5 Express servers for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMB) powered by the dual-core Power5+ chip to run all sorts of database applications.

IBM pSeries Director Jeff Howard said the IBM System p5 550Q employs a Quad Core module — essentially two dual-core chips on the same wafer — in an eight-way Java server.

This form factor allows buyers to have four Power5+ 1.5 GHz cores in one socket and run up to twice as many workloads. Howard said the Quad Core’s symmetric multi-threading technology helps customers consolidate multiple servers into one system.

“You get a tremendous amount of performance in the same space as the dual-cores,” Howard said in an interview. The four-way configuration of the p5 550Q starts at $21,713; the eight-way server starts at $37,428.

The new System p5 520 is a dual-core, two-way machine running the new 1.9 Ghz Power5+. It is meant to be used as a small database server or a branch applications server, or for business intelligence (BI) and high-performance computing (HPC) software. This machine starts at $11,896.

The p5 520’s big brother, the p5 550, is a four-way database server with 1.9 GHz Power5+ dual-core chips. It can serve as a database or regional server and is also designed for database servers, e-commerce application servers, Web servers, operations systems, and for BI and HPC workloads. Its starting price is $15,820.

For those shops that don’t have a lot of space to play with, the System p5 505 is a rack server in a 1U form factor, starting at $3,750. Though it doesn’t employ the performance boost of a Power5+, it runs 1.5 Ghz and 1.65 Ghz Power5 processors in 1- and 2-way configurations.

Howard said this particular box delivers more than twice the storage capacity and twice the memory capacity of the recently announced Sun Fire X4100, in addition to greater performance, at a lower price.

The new IBM System p5 Express offerings come in two new editions: the AIX 5L Unix Edition and the OpenPower Edition for customers who prefer to use Red Hat or Novell SUSE Linux operating systems. Customers can add additional AIX 5L or Linux partitions and run both operating systems at the same time.

To that end, customers can use the new Integrated Virtualization Manager browser-based user interface to create a micro-partition ready for installation of either AIX 5L or Linux with just 3 mouse.

The new System p5 models will be available on Oct. 14. Howard said the public can expect more System p5 systems down the road, as well as additional Quad Core implementations.

IBM hopes the machines will further IBM’s cause to take away the Unix market share lead from long-time leader Sun Microsystems, which rejuvenated its Unix line last month.

Research from firms like IDC and Gartner have pegged Sun as the Unix server leader in units shipped while tabbing IBM as the revenue leader.

IBM and Sun expect to continue to duke it out in the market for dual-core technology, prized for its ability to boost performance without increasing server footprints or power consumption.

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