IBM adds servers to bolster midrange Unix line

IBM Corp. last week boosted its midrange Unix server line-up with new models featuring faster processors and new reliability and management technologies developed under a wide-ranging IBM software development program called eLiza.

According to IBM, the new eight-processor eServer p660M1 system delivers almost 60 per cent more raw processing power than the company’s current M80 model in the same family of Unix servers.

Delivering much of that performance are new 750-MHz Power3 chips that feature IBM’s copper and silicon-on-insulator (SOI) technologies, and enhanced memory management technologies, claimed Chuck Brian, an IBM director.

Among the management capabilities available on the new server is one for predictive failure analysis that enables a system to self-diagnose potential hardware problems and alert IT staffers about it, Brian said. A similar capability on the software side automatically predicts and alerts staff members about software failures. Rounding off the reliability features are things such as IBM’s Chipkill technology, which is designed to deal with memory-based system failures. Also available is a dynamic processor de-allocation function for automatically reassigning tasks from a failing processor.

These features have been migrated down from IBM’s mainframes into the midrange space as part of the eLiza project.

In keeping with the trend established by rival Hewlett-Packard Co. in the midrange Unix server space, IBM’s new boxes also offer a capacity-on-demand feature. Using it, customers can quickly activate additional processors on the system as needed.

The capabilities of the new servers give IBM’s midrange Unix technology an edge over comparable boxes from rivals such as HP and Sun Microsystems Inc., claimed Kevin Smith, CEO of MDoffices Inc. The New York-based start-up company delivers a service that enables physicians to transmit prescriptions and other medical information via wireless devices.

“We looked at various vendors and eventually made a decision to go with IBM for two reasons,” Smith said. “Their technology allows us to run [the servers] on much less power than competitors, and they offered us a lease arrangement under which we don’t have to pay anything for the first six months.” Smith said he expects to install the servers early next year.

Southern Pipe and Supply Co., a Meridian, Miss.-based wholesaler of plumbing and heating equipment, decided to go with IBM’s new servers because it liked the vendor’s long-term Unix road map, said IT director Johnny Dean. Southern, which currently uses Unix servers from Westboro, Mass.-based Data General Corp., plans to migrate to IBM’s new servers in the next several weeks, he added.

Features such as Chipkill, SOI and capacity upgrades on demand, in particular, were crucial factors behind that decision, Dean said.

Both Sun and HP, which is the market leader in the midrange Unix space, are planning major new upgrades to their own line-ups. Sun’s high-end UltraSPARC III-based servers were scheduled for release in September, as was HP’s refresh.