RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. (04/18/2000) - IBM Corp.'s latest Intel-based servers are designed like Lego blocks, letting users piece together memory, disk and peripherals as needed for growing Web commerce sites.
The new rack-mounted models, due at the end of this month, are the two-CPU 4500R and the four-CPU 6000R. As with the other Netfinity servers, these use Intel processors and can be loaded with Windows 2000, Linux or any other Intel-compatible operating system.
"The 6000R is going to do very well in the dot-com and service-provider markets," says Vernon Turner, vice president of worldwide commercial systems for market researcher IDC in Framingham, Mass. "It has the [value of the] IBM label. It's hot-pluggable, fault-tolerant and scalable. These are all attributes that make it ideal for these kinds of customers."
The four-processor server market is exploding, says Turner, with Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Compaq vying with IBM for dominance. "The new models fill out an IBM product line that just 18 months ago was very bare-bones," he says.
Turner says the 4500R will be a good candidate as a specialized server, sometimes called an appliance, to perform one job, such as caching.
Web commerce applications and hosting services have an especially urgent need for servers that can keep running even if a part fails, along with quickly being installed and reconfigured to meet surging Web traffic. It's critical that these servers be rack-mounted to take up minimal space.
Most of the other Netfinity servers are stand-alone, two- or four-CPU boxes, differing in their type of Intel processor, memory and disk storage. Prices for these range from about $1,500 to less than $3,600.
The two new models are designed with a rack setting in mind. Power supplies, for example, are loaded at the front of the box to minimize power cables at the rear of a unit. Both have built-in spare cooling fans, power supplies and other components. Many of these components have what IBM calls "light-path" diagnostics - a technique borrowed from IBM's mainframe expertise in which, for example, tiny light bulbs switch on to show exactly which memory chip has a problem, showing a technician immediately what part to replace.
For the high-end 6000R, IBM has added a separate integrated systems management processor, another technique borrowed from the mainframe. The processor runs monitoring code, such as a predictive failure program that watches and measures the performance of various system components. If it detects a decrease in the revolutions of a cooling fan, for example, the processor sends an alert to the administrator's console, and the fan can be replaced before it fails.
Both models come standard with a 10/100 M bit/sec Ethernet interface.
Optionally, customers can plug in Gigabit Ethernet interfaces.
Windows 2000 is expected to be a major operating system for the models because of the greatly improved reliability of the software and an array of outsourced applications that are written for it, says Todd Nicholson, Netfinity product manager.
But IBM is seeing significant growth in Linux servers, especially among service providers.
"There's a tremendous interest in Linux because it's inexpensive and there's a lot of flexibility in tuning it," says Brian Sanders, brand manager for the Netfinity line. "We've seen a 166% growth in Linux servers in the past 12 months."