Big Blue begins shipping Regatta

Setting the stage for a rumble in the Unix server market next year, IBM Corp. on Friday announced the full availability of its eServer p690 "Regatta" server.

Regatta is IBM's first system aimed directly at the US$6 billion market for high-end Unix servers priced between $1 million and $5 million. In development for more than five years, Regatta's arrival has long been expected to trigger a huge battle for Unix market share between Unix leader Sun Microsystems Inc. and now a very aggressive Hewlett-Packard Co. as well.

With Regatta, IBM has drawn on much of its expertise in mainframe computing to openly challenge the competition on a number of different fronts including power efficiency, performance, and price, according to IBM officials.

Regatta's launch also marks the introduction of IBM's Power4 microprocessor. The copper-based chip contains two processors, each running in excess of 1GHz. Within Regatta, data flows between the memory cache and the Power4 chip at nearly 125GBps, a speed equal to the transfer of 25 full-length DVD movies in a single second, according to IBM. The chips copper interconnects and SOI (silicon on insulator) technology assist Regatta in running cooler while consuming less power, officials said.

Self-healing technology from IBM's Project eLiza is also incorporated into Regatta, giving the server certain internal fail-over capabilities in the event of system errors or component failures, according to IBM.

Early customers include San Francisco-based Gap Inc., which will use Regatta to run retail supply-chain software for its Gap, Old Navy, and Banana Republic stores, IBM representatives said.

Until recently, experts were calling the Unix market a two-horse-race between IBM and Sun, which unveiled its Sun Fire 15K server, known as Starcat, during the same week that Regatta was announced last October. Starcat will begin shipping within weeks, according to Sun.

Since then, however, HP with its year-old Superdome Unix server has done quite nicely in the market, according to recent numbers from International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass. HP is now neck-and-neck with Sun for total Unix revenue across entry-, mid-, and high-end server markets with a 28.5 percent share compared to Sun's 28.8 percent share, according to IDC.

This means IBM, with its 20.9 percent share of the Unix market, now faces a three-way rumble for Unix server domination in 2002, a challenge Big Blue is apparently ready to face.

"IBM's near-term outlook is world class and reflects the work of mainframe engineering talent that is moving IBM's Unix technology far ahead of the competition," said Don Young, an industry analyst at investment bank UBS Warburg, in New York.

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