IBM boosts mixed nets with new AS/400 servers

Users of Linux, Windows NT and OS/400 will be able to manage their networks less expensively and run multiple applications and operating systems on several low-end to high-end iSeries (AS/400) servers IBM Corp. unveiled last week.

The iSeries Model 270, 820, 830 and 840 servers are able to load up to 32 instances of an operating system on the same machine, letting network managers consolidate servers and quickly increase the capabilities of applications running on their networks. Network managers will also be able to partition a single processor and run multiple instances of Linux, Windows NT or OS/400 on it.

"We were able to logically partition the iSeries server to enable us to deploy Windows 2000, Citrix (Systems Inc.) MetaFrame and OS/400," says Pete Smith, director of information services for the Sea Island Company, a residential and resort retreat on Sea Island, Ga. "The disk subsystems let us get far more users on a single system than anticipated. We had expected about 20 users per CPU, but did not see any performance degradation until there were 40 users per CPU."

Smith has five instances of Windows 2000 running on xSeries integrated servers hosted by the iSeries server. Ordinarily, he would have had to purchase Intel-based servers to run Windows 2000. Smith also said that managing the iSeries is easier because it has a unified management interface for Windows 2000, OS/400 and Linux operating systems.

The Model 270 is designed for Web or application server use and will compete against Intel-based servers. The Model 820, 830 and 840 are designed for transaction processing and will compete in the consolidation area, where network managers want to group bunches of Windows NT or Linux servers for easier management, scalability, security and utilization.

The iSeries servers, which use the 64-bit PowerPC SStar processor, are managed by software called Operations Navigator, which is a Windows-based monitor for PCs, mobile phones and wireless devices. The SStar processor is intended for on-line transaction processing (OLTP), business intelligence, enterprise resource planning (ERP), Web serving and collaborative groupware applications. SStar uses copper chip technology and silicon-on-insulator technology. Copper conducts electricity better than aluminum, allowing the server to run cooler and saving cooling expenses in confined data centers.

The iSeries servers range from two to 24 processors. The 270 starts with two processors; the 820 has four processors; the 830 has four to eight processors; and the 840 has 12 to 24 processors. SPECjjB2000 benchmarks from the industry Standard Performance Evaluation Corp. (SPEC), show the iSeries 840 processing over 132,000 transactions per second. The recently announced Sun Microsystems Sun Fire 6800 processes slightly more than 109,000 transactions per second.

In addition, IBM is providing new clustering software and a technology called switchable disk, which allows the disk of one server to be switched to another server in the event of system failure, as well as support for Fibre Channel tape attachment and storage. Fibre Channel support will allow server-attached storage and data on storage area networks to share the same tape. It will also let network managers attach iSeries servers to the IBM Enterprise Storage Server (Shark).

The iSeries servers will be available in May, ranging from US$11,200 to $1.5 million.

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