IBM boasts self-healing in ‘Regatta’ server

IBM Corp. on Tuesday offered a glimpse under the hood of an upcoming server codenamed Regatta, which makes use of self-diagnosing and self-healing features designed to make the server more dependable.

The server is due to be released in the fourth quarter and uses up to 32 of IBM’s new Power4 processors. It will be the first member of the eServer family to use the Power4 chip, each of which comprises two processor cores running at more than 1GHz, said Joel Tendler, program director for technology assessment in IBM’s server group.

Tendler highlighted several features intended to boost the reliability of IBM’s new server. For example, Regatta uses a “self-healing system,” or a network of over 5,600 sensors spread throughout the server to detect internal errors and take corrective action. The sensors can help determine the cause of a problem, which can sometimes be hard to distinguish from its symptoms, Tendler said.

Regatta will also feature a “PCI-retry” function, which makes a second attempt to send data within the server in the event of an error. “These types of errors are usually intermittent, and if you retry the same thing, it will work,” Tendler said.

The machine will also feature ECC (error correcting code) and “memory scrubbing,” which detects certain types of errors when reading from memory, corrects the data and sends it back out, Tendler said.

One analyst said the new features should result in lower maintenance costs for businesses. “The costs will be lower because the system is more predictive,” said Vernon Turner, an analyst with International Data Corp. (IDC) in Framingham, Massachusetts. “It appears that IBM has tried to trap, capture and diagnose almost every fault condition.”

The server will go head-to-head with systems such as Sun Microsystems Inc.’s Enterprise 10000 server and Hewlett-Packard Co.’s Superdome server, Turner said, both of which use up to 64 processors.

IBM has yet to release pricing for the Regatta, which borrows some of its self-healing ideas from IBM’s futuristic Project eLiza initiative.

IBM, in Armonk, N.Y., can be reached at