IBM marks the spot with xSeries

Canada’s number two server supplier, IBM, announced the release of four new Intel-based servers at last month’s CeBIT technology trade show in Hanover, Germany.

Primary among the new servers is IBM’s introduction of a 64-processor server, the x430. IBM now says its xSeries is the only single Intel server line to offer customers scalability from one to 64 processors. Originally called Netfinity, IBM’s new xSeries Intel server line now numbers a total of 13 different boxes.

IBM’s xSeries was incorporated along with three other server categories under the eServer banner in October of last year. The move was made to refocus IBM’s efforts to regain market share against its major competitor, Sun Microsystems.

Included within the x430 is IBM’s Non-Uniform Memory Access (NUMA) architecture, which can divide the server into several partitions. Based upon technology designed by Sequent, a company IBM purchased in 1999, NUMA enables a server to run multiple applications concurrently on four major operating systems. These include IBM’s version of UNIX – Dynix/ptx – as well as Windows Datacenter Server (which will be supported by the end of this year), IBM’s S/390 and Linux. Sun boxes like the E10000 have already been offering partitioning, a standard mainframe feature.

“We’re very excited about NUMA because it really offers us a next step into the enterprise,” said Greg Davison, national marketing manager for eServer xSeries for IBM Canada, located in Markham, Ont.

Davison agreed with analysts that IBM’s support of Linux also offers an opportunity for the company to present the appearance of being leading edge.

“A lot of companies are starting to experiment with Linux,” Davison explained.

As well as the x430, which is built in a quad-processor format, IBM also released: the x250, a four-way server designed for enterprises running critical applications; the x350, a seven inch, four-way enterprise server designed for constrained data centres; and the x370, an eight-way server designed to deliver high availability and performance for enterprise-level workloads.

All four of the new servers use Intel’s 700MHz Pentium III Xeon chips. Davison said he was not worried that potential customers might forego buying servers now and instead wait for Intel to finally release its 64-bit Itanium processor.

“It seems like the demand for Intel servers is growing like mad,” Davison said. “If you look at our growth last year, it was incredible – 37 per cent year over year growth.”

Philip Zhang, an IT architect at Honda Canada Inc. in Toronto, said he is not prepared to wait until Intel’s Itanium processor is released.

Zhang said he is using about 60 IBM servers in Honda’s local area network, including the x250, x250, x340 and x360.

He is preparing to add at least forty more IBM Intel-based servers this year alone in order to handle his company’s continuing foray into e-Commerce. Though he has not examined IBM’s four new xSeries servers, Zhang said he has been impressed overall with the former Netfinity line.

Zhang said he particularly liked the management features of the series, such as Chipkill memory, which allows the server to keep running even with multi-bit errors. He also likes the fact that IBM supplied a network manager free with his purchases. The IBM Director provides predictive failure analysis on hardware, Zhang said.

With its new servers, IBM is also offering software rejuvenation with its new version of the Director, Davison said.

“Software rejuvenation is a utility that predicts when software will fail before it happens,” Davison explained. “The server can be programmed to either notify you or maybe reboot itself or restart the application.”

Pricing for IBM’s x250 starts at $10,999; the x350 starts at $9,009; the x370 starts at $23,249; and the x430 starts at $31,500. All are available now. For more information, visit www.ibm.ca.