Unisys to release data-center server with Xeon, Itanium

Unisys will try to convince IT managers to consolidate multiple servers into its new ES7000/560 server when the product launches in June. The company will announce the product Thursday in the US in conjunction with Microsoft's Windows Server 2003 launch.

The ES7000/560 combines three data-center functions into one machine, said Mark Feverston, vice president for enterprise server marketing at Unisys. It features up to 32 Xeon MP processors and up to 32 Itanium 2 processors to handle both 32-bit application serving and 64-bit databases, as well as blade servers for Web infrastructure management, he said.

IT managers can manage their Web infrastructure with the ability to add up to 42 PCI (peripheral component interconnect) blade servers, Feverston said. The entire package comes with Unisys' Server Sentinel management software to help make enterprise data server environments as easy to manage as possible, he said.

"(Customers) will have the ability to manipulate and add the right processing resources at the right moment. You don't have to buy an infrastructure for only one function," he said.

However, consolidation is a tricky undertaking, said John Enck, a vice president with research firm Gartner Inc., who is based in Loveland, Colorado. "There are no easy answers to consolidation. This is a partial answer, for certain types of applications," he said.

The Windows operating system does not lend itself to running multiple applications, Enck said. The ES7000/560 allows the user to partition the server, so multiple copies of the operating system can be used, but those multiple software images don't exactly help an IT manager consolidate their environment, he said.

The new server does allow data-center managers to consolidate the physical area taken up by multiple servers, which can come as quite a relief to many companies that are trying to save space, Enck said.

The dual Xeon/Itanium construction is unique among the major server vendors, Enck said. But the ability to add the blades right into the server housing, rather than having to build a rack for their storage, will be more attractive to potential buyers than the ability to run 32-bit and 64-bit applications next to each other, he said. "I just haven't seen a lot of interest in Itanium," he said.

Unisys, based in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, thinks the new server will be used by small or medium-size businesses to run their entire IT infrastructure, or that larger enterprise customers will purchase two or three to handle their needs, Feverston said. A base configuration of the server with 16 of Intel Corp.'s 2.0GHz Xeon MP processors and eight Itanium 2 processors costs US$250,000.

Along with the base configuration, users can choose different "starter kit" assortments of blade servers based on their company's needs, such as load balancing, DNS (domain name server) management, and others. The server will be available worldwide in June.

The announcement will come the week of Advanced Micro Devices Inc.'s (AMD's) Opteron server processor launch. That chip runs both 32-bit and 64-bit software on the same processor, but enterprise IT managers won't want to risk placing their mission-critical applications on an untested platform, at least right away, Feverston said.

"They don't always make the decision based on technology. AMD's technology looks solid, but experience often counts for more than technology," he said.

Enterprises without a history of data-center expertise will be interested in the ES7000/560, Enck said. The services and support that Unisys provides along with the server will make it easier for companies to get an enterprise-class data center up and running, he said.

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