March 23, 2001 4:00 AM PST

IBM releases 64-CPU Intel server

HANOVER, Germany--IBM on Friday plans to introduce a 64-processor server, the high-end pinnacle of efforts to reclaim its server crown from competitor Sun Microsystems.

IBM will unveil the new product, called the x430, during a press conference Friday at the CeBit technology trade show here.

Additionally, Big Blue has completed the transition to "xSeries," the new name for its server line based on Intel processors. As part of the new line, IBM will introduce a new eight-processor system and two new four-processor models.

The new Intel models reinforce IBM's overall recovery plan in the server market after being blindsided by rival Sun.

But although IBM is pushing its new Intel server line as hard as it can, some of the models that incorporate Microsoft's most robust version of Windows haven't been as successful as IBM had hoped, said Ian Miller, vice president of IBM's xSeries Intel server line, in an interview with CNET News.com. The highest-end version of Windows, called Windows 2000 Datacenter, is intended to compete against Unix for use in the most demanding business applications.

"I think the volume we and everybody else is seeing is not as big as we expected," Miller said. "I think it has a certain amount of sticker shock," he said. One reason for the expense: Customers must buy elaborate support services from the computer manufacturer, such as IBM or Compaq.

The 64-processor machine can be divided into several "partitions," essentially subdividing a single computer into several smaller ones. Partitioning, originally developed on mainframes but popularized on less expensive machines by Sun, now has spread to several server designs.

IBM's Sequent designs run a version of Unix called Dynix/ptx that can take advantage of all the CPUs, though individual partitions within a server can run other operating systems such as Windows, Linux and even IBM's OS/390 mainframe operating system.

Upcoming 16-processor servers based on IBM's "Summit" design also will feature partitioning, Miller said. The Summit design incorporates Sequent technology, IBM has said. IBM bought Sequent in 1999.

While the world was waiting for the higher-end Sequent designs, IBM lost plum accounts such as Cisco Systems to others.

The new x430 costs about $80,000 for a bare-bones model, while a system with eight processors and 4GB of memory costs about $160,000, IBM said. The machine can accommodate as much as 64GB of memory.

The four-processor x350, based on a ServerWorks chipset, is just 7 inches thick and is designed to be mounted into racks. It costs about $14,500 for a two-processor model and 1GB of memory.

The free-standing four-processor x250 design is less expensive, costing about $13,500 for a comparable configuration.

The eight-processor x370 costs about $35,000 for a model with four CPUs and 2GB of memory. All the new IBM servers use 700MHz Pentium III Xeon chips with 2MB of high-speed cache memory.

On high-end IBM Windows servers, Big Blue offers a guarantee that the system will stay up and running 99.99 percent of the time, a guarantee that applies to both the computer and some applications.

The guarantee, a notch better than earlier 99.9 percent guarantees, is contingent on a customer buying IBM services for setting up and running the system. If the systems don't meet the guarantee, IBM refunds up to 15 percent of the annual support costs, the company said.

 

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