IBM pushes Power4 chips down Unix server line

IBM bolstered its Unix server line Tuesday with the release of a four-processor system that ships with many of the company's hardware and software features normally reserved for higher-end systems.

IBM's p630 server is a follow on to the larger p690 that uses 1.0GHz Power4 processors similar to those in the bigger system. The p630 will be offered with one to four processors and starts shipping worldwide at the end of August, said Jim McGaughan, director of IBM eServer product marketing. The system will run both IBM's AIX flavor of the Unix operating system and the Linux operating system. In addition, the company will introduce dynamic partitioning for the server, allowing users to run both AIX and Linux on the same server, in the fourth quarter, McGaughan said.

"We made absolutely no compromises with this system," McGaughan said. "We put every reliability feature in this server that we have on the p690."

With the p630, IBM continues its move to catch up with Unix market leader Sun Microsystems Inc. Last week, Sun also updated its midrange Unix line with the two-processor to four-processor V480 server running on 900MHz UltraSPARC III processors. This system from Sun starts at US$22,995 with two 900MHz UltraSPARC IIIs, 4G-bytes of memory and two 36G-byte disks. The IBM p630 with one processor, 1G byte of memory and one 18G-byte disk starts at $12,495, McGaughan said.

IBM will make dynamic partitioning available on p630 in the fourth quarter, which allows administrators to split the system up into four virtual servers. IBM will deliver the technology via an update to AIX, allowing users to change processing resources in each partition without rebooting the server. McGaughan, however, does not expect many users to take advantage of this feature.

"I don't think customers will do that right out of the shoot," he said. "People will use it somewhat sparingly until they get used to it."

Some higher-end servers from the likes of Sun already come with advanced dynamic partitioning tools, but IBM claims to be the leader in bringing this tool used for server consolidation down to lower-end systems.

In the third quarter, SuSE Linux AG will ship a version of Linux that takes advantage of some of these capabilities, he said.

The p630 also comes with various tools for guarding against hardware and software failures such as Chipkill Memory and data capture technology.

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