Unisys unveils updated high-end Xeon-equipped servers

As it continues to try to distinguish itself in the high-end server market, Unisys Corp. has unveiled a more powerful Wintel machine to stand against competition running Unix and other operating systems.

In a statement today, Blue Bell, Pa.-based Unisys unveiled its newly updated Enterprise Server ES7000/200, which provides added performance over the first-generation machines released two years ago. A formal announcement about the new hardware is expected next week.

The machines differ from high-end servers being offered by competitors including IBM, Compaq Computer Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. because the Unisys servers run Microsoft Corp. operating systems and utilize Xeon processors from Intel Corp. That compares to traditional Unix operating systems in the high-end segment.

In addition to featuring Intel's latest Xeon MP processors, the ES7000 servers will include Unisys' new Server Sentinel systems management software, which brings self-diagnostic and self-healing repair capabilities to the servers.

The machines can be equipped with eight to 32 processors.

"The common message we're hearing from customers is that the complexities of multiple applications and operating environments that drive the proliferation of servers are creating chaos in the data center," Mark Feverston, vice president of Unisys Server Programs, said in a statement.

The new servers, available next month, will be priced between US$100,000 and $1 million.

James Cassell, an analyst at Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn., said the servers continue to break the mold for high-end applications, while being faster and cheaper than traditional Unix large-scale machines.

"They are the de facto standard for Intel-based high-end systems because nobody else has them," he said. So far, Unisys has sold more than 600 of the first generation of the ES7000 servers, he said, including sales to one company that replaced 600 traditional servers with two 16-way ES7000s.

"That's what they're doing," Cassell said of the server consolidation projects being done with the Unisys boxes.

Robert Dorin, an analyst at Aberdeen Group Inc. in Boston, Mass., said the latest announcement isn't world-beating, but is another step in Unisys' climb to get attention for its innovations in running Microsoft on Intel at the high-end.

"There's certainly a place for this," Dorin said. "But IT buyers tend to be very risk averse." Typically, users reach a growth point in their businesses where the logical step means moving away from Microsoft and heading for the needed high-end reliability and scalability of Unix and other enterprise operating systems, he said. Unisys is "working to try to change that perception," Dorin said.

"Unisys is looking for something where they can perhaps establish some leadership and gain some traction," he added. "They really need to do something to get some more visibility. Having good ideas and patents isn't enough."

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