IBM delivers Power-based servers with Linux

IBM Corp. will push its Power5 line of servers down into the low end of the market, taking Linux with it, when it unwraps an aggressively priced series of Linux-only systems on Monday that will go up against the offerings of Sun Microsystems Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co.

Specifically tuned to run Linux, the new four-way, 64-bit eServer OpenPower machines will not be available with IBM’s proprietary Unix-based operating system, AIX. They will ship only with either Red Hat’s distribution of Linux, based on the 2.4 Linux kernel, or the Suse Linux version, which is based on the 2.6 kernel.

“We sat down with the key maintainers of Linux and asked them what we can do inside the Power 5, Power 5 Plus, and eventually the Power 6 architectures to accelerate the (performance) of Linux. This is why we are introducing things like first failure data capture, hardware-based cache coherencies, and much improved synchronization mechanics,” said Brian Connors, vice-president in charge of IBM’s Linux on Power Business line of products.

As part of the rollout on Monday, IBM will also offer details on a two-way Power-based system to be delivered sometime in next year’s first quarter, Connors said.

IBM officials believe they can leverage the strength they have been building among application developers for the Power architecture, where they claim to now have hundreds of certified applications that can now work with the new lower-end systems.

“We have over 650 certified applications for Linux on Power, and now we can extend those down to servers with one to four processors, thereby creating a solid entry-level platform for Linux. And if they want to extend and scale Linux, say, in a logical partition, they still have our pSeries and xSeries lines,” Connors said.

Top-tier Linux distributors appear to welcome the new systems, believing it in fact will open up more competitive opportunities for them.

“We consider (the OpenPower servers initiative) to be a significant step in advancing the Linux ecosystem. This will make it more possible to deliver some of the advantages of the security and affordability Linux can offer,” a company spokesperson said.

IBM will pursue what company officials perceive to be a rich opportunity for the systems in the financial and retail industries where Sun, in particular, has been strong. The company, through its network of resellers and business partners, plans to deliver a number of solutions geared towards those two markets later this year, Connors said.

The company will make its Virtualization Engine available as an option with the four-way systems. That technology helps administrators simplify the management and utilization of a range of different IT hardware and software resources and better enables them to support business process change.

“Through virtualization we can go after those users looking to do server consolidation of workloads. You can consolidate 20 servers, each costing US$3,000 to $4,000 (all figures U.S.), down to one Power-based system with a $2,000 virtualization engine,” Connors said.

The two eServer OpenPower Model 720s will be positioned against the higher end of Sun and HP’s entry-level Unix servers and can be purchased with either the 1.5GHz or 1.65GHz versions of the Power 5. They are available in either a rack mount or tower configuration, can hold as much as 64GB, and are optionally available with IBM’s Virtualization Engine.

The system can hold either the single or dual-core versions of the Power 5.

The OpenPower 720 systems will ship on Sept. 24 with the base configuration costing $4,999, with the virtualization option priced at $2,000.

More information about the eServer OpenPower systems can be found at

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