IBM to target SMBs with first Power5+ servers

IBM Corp. is expected to release the first servers based on its new 64-bit Power5+ processors Tuesday, according to a company executive. The machines are aimed at small to midsize businesses (SMBs). They include several new products, notably a quadcore server, together with new virtualization and systems management software.

The Power5+ chips come in clock speeds of either 1.5GHz or 1.9GHz with a maximum of 72M bytes of onboard cache memory, according to Jeff Howard, program director for IBM’s p5 product marketing.

“We’re heavily targeting SMBs,” Howard said in a phone interview Monday. “More than 58 percent of the Unix opportunity is in the SMB space.” IBM typically defines SMBs as companies employing 1,000 staff or less, he added.

The new System p5 550 Q is powered by a 1.5GHz quadcore Power5+ chip enabling the hardware to function as an eight-way machine, he said.

The System p5 505 is IBM’s first rack server for the Power5 or Power5+ architecture in a 1U form factor. U is the standard unit for measuring the space between shelves on a server rack where 1U equals 1.75 inches.

“We’re starting with p5 and will extend [the Power5+ chip] to the midrange and high-end in 2006,” Howard said.

IBM also upgraded two existing server models to feature the new chip — the two-way 1.9GHz System p5 520 and the four-way 1.9GHz System p5 550.

The servers are available with IBM’s own flavor of Unix, AIX 5L, or in what Big Blue calls the OpenPower edition with the Linux operating system from either Red Hat Inc. or Novell Inc. The machines are part of IBM’s Express line of hardware targeting both SMBs and startup companies. All the machines come with a three-year warranty, according to Howard.

“We’ve taken the best of our eServer p5 and OpenPower line that we had in the past,” Howard said. IBM is dropping the eServer prefix from its p5 product line and replacing it with “System,” a rebranding move begun back in July when the company introduced its latest mainframe as the System z9, he explained.

Big Blue expects all the Power5+-based machines to ship from Oct. 14. The System p5 505 has a starting price of US$3,750, while IBM is still finalizing pricing for the other servers.

IBM also announced two new software products targeted at SMBs. Integrated Virtualization Manager (IVM) provides a browser-based interface to the company’s virtualization micropartitioning capabilities, according to Howard. “It takes three clicks of a mouse to create and activate a micropartition,” he said. “We’re making the use of virtualization much, much easier.”

Big Blue also took the wraps off a pSeries version of its Director 5.1 systems management software which it said will be free of charge to its pSeries customers. Users should be able to download the software from IBM’s Web site starting Nov. 25.

IBM is manufacturing the Power5+ chips at its East Fishkill, New York facility with a new 90-nanometer production process, according to Howard.

In the area of high performance computing, IBM Tuesday unveiled a new workstation, the IntelliStation Power 285, based on the Power5+ chip. The company also came out with a 16-way p5 575 for supercomputing applications, also powered by the new 64-bit processor.

Rival Sun Microsystems Inc. released the first servers based on its new UltraSparc IV+ chips last month. Both IBM and Sun’s processors are based on the Risc (reduced instruction set computing) architecture.

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