IBM flexes mainframe muscle

IBM Corp. on Monday took a swing at competitor Hewlett-Packard Co. in the “big-iron” application server market with the introduction of a new IBM eServer i890.

Big Blue also released the latest version of it iSeries operating system, IBM OS/400 Version 5 Release 2, which ships in the i890, according to Ian Jarmon, a product marketing manager for iSeries servers at IBM, based in Armonk, New York.

Designed as a mainframe-style alternate to multiple racks of separately-managed application servers, the i890 can be partitioned to isolate each of its 32 processors into an individual application server running either OS/400 or Linux, said Jarmon. IBM will add Windows and its own AIX operating system to the list of OSes that can be partitioned within the 32-way server by 2004, Jarmon said.

The ability to partition multiple server processor nodes into virtual stand-alone servers inside the i890 makes “this system an alternative to server farm solutions,” said Jarmon.

Packing IBM’s 64-bit Power4 processors running at clock speeds of 1.3GHz, the i890 delivers twice the performance of its predecessor the i840, according to IBM.

Enhancement to OS/400 cover features such as Web caching technologies and secure socket accelerators that Big Blue representatives said “double the capacity for securely serving Web pages.”

Similar to all IBM servers, the i890 ships with IBM’s Project eLiza technology which assists administrators in detecting and often resolving computing hardware and software malfunctions before they occur, according to IBM.

Making its debut on the i890 is IBM’s Enterprise Identity Mapping (EIM) technology. EIM maps the individual security IDs of a user across a network, stores them, and eliminates the need for the user to have to repeatedly log on to password-protected systems, IBM representatives said.

The i890 and its related software upgrades are targeted directly at Unix server competitor Hewlett-Packard (HP), said Jarmon.

Typically you’d see this mainframe class of server competing with high-end Unix servers, but the iSeries market is more focused on segments like manufacturing, distribution, and banking. And we see HP as being the competitor in this market segment for iSeries, said Jarmon.

Of the major Unix server players, only IBM and HP maintained positive share gain in the Unix server market over the last year, according to research by IDC, in Framingham, Massachusetts.

IBM owns approximately a 20.9 per cent share of the Unix server market, with HP just ahead with a 28.5 per cent share, according to IDC figures for the third quarter of 2001. Sun, with its 28.8 per cent share of the Unix server market also offers mainframe-style servers with its Starcat line, but IBM generally competes with StarCat using a mainframe server called Regatta.