IBM readies Regatta

In an effort to increase its share of the multibillion-dollar high-end Unix server market, IBM this week is expected to launch its highly anticipated Regatta server. The new system is IBM's first server aimed directly at the US$6 billion market for high-end Unix servers priced between $1 million and $5 million, said Don Young, an industry analyst at UBS Warburg LLc, in New York.

Regatta marks the introduction of IBM's Power4 dual processor "Spinnaker" chip with 1.5MB of L2 cache, said Young. The copper-based 0.18-micron technology Power4 chip with silicon-on-insulator technology delivers 30 percent more performance while consuming as much as 66 percent less power, Young said.

Power4 chips were designed to compete with Sun Microsystem Inc.'s UltraSparc V chips and Intel Corp.'s McKinley processors, said Young. Sun rolled out its new Starcat server running UltraSparc V processors just last week.

Regatta will pack Big Blue's self-healing automatic maintenance system and offer partitioning features Young said were unavailable in existing RS6000 servers from IBM.

By the second half of 2002, Young expects IBM to add dynamic partitioning to Regatta models that will enable "fractional partitioning of CPU, memory, and I/O capability." NUMA-based configurations of Regatta with single system images running between 128 and 256 processors are also expected to arrive in 2002. Regatta will also be able run different operating systems simultaneously within its separate partitions, such as IBM's AIX operating system and Linux.

Part of the allure of Sun's Starcat is the ability to partition the Sun server as many as 18 different ways in certain configurations, according to Sun officials.

However, Young believes "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," he said.

"We expect to see top-ranking TPC [Transaction Processing Performance] benchmarks [from Regatta]," said Young, who added that Sun has been reluctant to use TPC benchmarks for Starcat as Sun officials claim they are "not real-world measurements."

With Regatta, IBM hopes to increase its current high-end Unix market share, which stands at less than 10 percent, said Young. Sun, on the other hand, is the top Unix vendor in the world. Hewlett-Packard and Compaq, once formidable Unix players, are leaving the Unix playing field as they port their Unix customers over to Intel's Windows-based Itanium chip family.

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