The S80 is IBM Canada’s first server in its RS/6000 Unix family to use its new copper chip technology, and it’s that technology that sets the S80 apart from other IBM servers that have come before it, according to IBM.

“That’s one of the ways that we achieve the performance leap frog that we accomplish with this product,” said IBM’s vice-president of systems sales Greg Gulyas in Markham, Ont.

Copper is a better conductor than silicon. Also, the path lengths, the way in which IBM etches path on the copper chips, are much smaller than they were able to do with just silicon. The smaller etchings are designed to let IBM drive processes faster using the same MHz.

The S80 has a 450MHz, 64-bit symmetric multiprocessor in a six- to 24-way SMP configuration.

Because of the scalability, “machine-size is no longer a barrier as our customers want to increase their application sizes and handle more transactions, whether it’s for internal applications or Web-based opportunities,” Gulyas claimed.

IBM’s new S80 server is following along the path of other servers now entering the market in that they all offer improved performance at a lower price point, said servers and work research manager Alan Freedom of International Data Corporation (Canada) Ltd. in Toronto.

“Most new servers seems to handle high-end transactions and much more functionality than ever before at a lower price,” Freedman said.

IBM’s S80 is no different, he said.

IBM is “increasing the capability, the capacity, the scalability, everything. But they’re decreasing the price,” Freedman said. “The benchmarks that are being published are better than Sun (Microsystems Inc.’s), so it seems like it’s a really significant competitor now. Meanwhile, it’s priced against other Sun boxes that are less capable.”

Despite some of the advantages the S80 has, Freedman still believes IBM has its work cut out for it in its new focus on the Unix market. “I think that [Sun’s] 10000 has other benefits like partitioning and things like that that can’t be done on the S80. So it’s got some high-end level management tools that differentiate it still. But IBM might be stealing some of the growth that Sun has captured over the past few years,” Freedman said.

The S80 server has a workload management feature that allows it to run or to manage multiple workloads, said Dan Tomlinson, a certified sales specialist at IBM.

The S80 can run different types of job applications and prioritize them by tier and by class so that different applications work well. “Many of our customers are struggling with multiple Unix platforms that they have been sold by other vendors for individual applications. We can optimize our customer’s investments by consolidating these onto a fewer number of larger servers such as the S80 and reduce their non-hardware costs and most of the costs that customers are facing now are in fact support costs. At the same time we won’t erode the performance benefit that a critical application would have on a single server,” Gulyas said.

The server runs on IBM’s Unix operating system, AIX 4.3.3. IBM moved some of the most frequently used capabilities closer to the kernel so that the S80 has to do less work for those popular applications.

Jeffrey Chaskin, president and CEO of Ursus Telecom Corp. in Sunrise, Fla., couldn’t be happier with the results.

“It’s just screaming along, doing everything we were ever told it would do,” he said.

When his voice and data telephone company decided on a Unix server for its e-business, the choice came down to Sun or IBM. Technically, Chaskin’s information systems staff liked things about both company’s servers. What finally sold Chaskin on IBM was the service and support he was getting from them.

“IBM just offered us so much assistance, so much help and just became involved in our process whereas Sun – we could barely get the time of day out of them. And we’re a small company, we needed to grow this application rapidly, we needed to get all the help we could get making the development easy and making the application come on line and service and IBM just stole the show on that point,” Chaskin said.

The S80 ( starts at US$290,000.

IBM can be reached at 1-800-565-3344.