IBM to build $US13m NUMA-Q test Centre

IBM yesterday announced it will open a $US13 million proof-of-concept centre for its NUMA-Q servers running business intelligence applications.

IBM acquired NUMA-Q in July when it bought Sequent Computer Systems for $810 million. NUMA-Q (non-uniform memory access) servers are high-end Intel-based servers that run Unix, Windows NT or both OSes and are typically used to run data warehousing, business intelligence and other heavy-duty applications. IBM's purchase of Sequent was finalised in September.

The NUMA-Q Teraplex Integration Centre will be housed in one of the laboratories on the former Sequent campus in Beaverton, Oregon, according to Aslam Khader, senior manager for NUMA-Q Solutions at IBM.

Opening in the first quarter of 2000, the facility will test the scalability of multi-terabyte IBM DB/2 and Oracle databases for customers who pass what Khader describes as a fairly strict set of qualifying criteria, including having over a half a terabyte of data in their database. Such a qualification alone knocks out most companies, Khader said.

A terabyte is a trillion characters. IBM gives the following analogy to help visualise that number of characters -- 50 typists typing 50 words per minute eight hours per day 365 days per year would take 285 years to type a trillion characters, according to Big Blue.

Whether the specific application customers are running will scale must not have been addressed in a previous test, Khader said. "We don't want this to be an academic exercise," he added.

NUMA-Q is scalable to 64 Intel Pentium II Xeon processors in a single system, and the NUMA-Q Teraplex Integration Centre will have a 10T-byte capability for the tests, called engagements, according to IBM.

Proof-of-concept engagements typically take between two weeks and two months to run, and the facility will probably perform between eight and ten of them a year, Khader said. The engagements are free to customers, but customers do have to bring their data and people to the experiment, he said. "Not from a money (perspective), but from a time perspective, it's a pretty significant effort for them as well," Khader added.

Consequently, the companies which qualify and take part in the centre will be large in size, as will be the sales that come out of the engagements, according to Khader. Based on the experience at IBM's four other separate platform-specific scalability testing centres -- for S/390, RS/6000, AS/400 and Netfinity -- the NUMA-Q facility can expect a "close to 100 percent hit rate" from its customers, he said.

Such a hit rate should translate into big money for IBM. In 1999, the business intelligence portion of NUMA-Q revenue alone came close to $200 million, according to Khader.

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