IBM launches eServer i5

IBM Corp. on Monday announced the latest addition to its eServer line based on the company’s POWER5 microprocessors. The new eServer i5 is designed for the small and medium business market and incorporates the newly announced Virtualization Engine, announced late last month.

According to Ian Jarman, IBM eServer i5 product manager in Rochester, Minn., the new POWER5 architecture is based on IBM’s 64-bit computing technology and offers SMBs an alternative to the other main 64-bit player, Intel Corp.

Despite its current high-powered hype, IBM has offered 64-bit computing capabilities since the mid-’90s, and Jarman said the technology offers value in more ways than strictly performance as the POWER5 architecture also enables the Virtualization Engine functionality.

“Virtualization is all about getting cost benefits and higher utilization of assets like a server,” he explained. “For example, if you are running a hotel, you try to fill all the rooms every night. If you are running an airline, you try and fill all the seats every flight. And, if you are running a server, you should try and run at as high utilization as possible.”

Rather than running a single application on a server, the Virtualization Engine allows multiple applications as well as multiple OSes to run on a server, all sharing the same storage and processor needs.

“That gives you higher utilization, gives you the benefits of productivity and lower cost of operating those environments together.”

Among eServer i5’s new features is integrated support for AIX — IBM’s Unix operating system. The system’s predecessors supported Microsoft Windows and Linux OSes.

“By giving [customers] all of these different OS choices on one platform, they can for example automatically move processing power between different workloads to better utilize the resources they have and also respond to different customer environments as they change,” Jarman said. “Particularly in Canada compared to the U.S., there is a smaller business profile. One of the things we are doing here is bringing those mainframe-class virtualization and On Demand technologies right down to the level of servers that a small business can use.”

For Nigel Fortlage, Monday’s announcement spells great things. Two years ago, Fortlage, vice-president of IT with GHY International, an international trade professional services organization in Winnipeg, conducted a review of the company’s current infrastructure, and had to find a way to stop filling technological gaps with servers.

“We had seven Intel-based servers that ran a variety of operating systems and had one IBM iSeries 720,” Fortlage said. “We found that we were spending 95 per cent as a team of three keeping these systems running.”

Fortlage and his team came up with a plan: they would add nine more Intel servers, revamp the seven they already had and hire three new IT staff to support the added infrastructure. While the plan seemed solid, Fortlage was immediately shot down by the company’s senior management — the cost of hiring staff alone was out of the budget.

“What we did at that point was run to the only vendor that has really ever invested time to understand my business, and that is IBM,” he said.

Over the course of three months, Big Blue developed a method to consolidate GHY’s environment. Called infrastructure simplification, GHY took all of its Linux and Windows environments and its core applications and, under the POWER4 architecture, ended up with two iServers servers — one dedicated to running the core applications and the second running Linux in a completely virtualized environment.

“The solution was actually $30,000 cheaper…than it was buying all the high-end Intel servers. In addition, what we found in the first year of implementation, my team of three has gone from spending 95 per cent of our time keeping that old environment running to five per cent to do exactly the same thing in a virtualized environment. This initial investment had a less than one-year payback in terms of operating expenses.”

Looking at the new eServer i5, which Fortlage has already decided to move to, GHY is planning to consolidate its environment further by moving everything to a single box.

“We are going to take advantage of the fact that AIX runs in that environment and we will be porting a SCO (Group) Unix application that we run currently over to AIX later in the year,” Fortlage said.

He added that he has been very impressed with IBM. “There is a new IBM out there which is really focused on providing a different level of relationship with the SMB marketplace.”

The IBM eServer i5 will be available June 11. Additionally, IBM is launching eServer i5 520 Express Edition, which includes WebSphere, the database, the OS, software maintenance, disk memory as well as the server hardware itself. The Express Edition has an MSRP of US$11,500 and will also be available in June.

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