Interview: Unisys president touts new servers

Unisys recently introduced a new variation of its Intel-based server line, the ES7000/500, which begins with a four-way processor and new modular design that allows end users to install it themselves. The server scales up to 32 processors. It's priced lower than the ES7000, Unisys' high-end server, which begins with an eight-way processor. Among the buyers Unisys is hoping to woo are those that may be looking at clusters. George Gazerwitz, president of Unisys Systems & Technology, explained the company's approach in an interview with Computerworld's Patrick Thibodeau.

Q: Dell Computer Corp., as well as other Intel-systems vendors, is pushing clusters as the enterprise solution. Why should an end user consider your system over that approach?

Certainly, from a performance standpoint, you're always going to get better performance (from a scale-up), especially when you have demanding applications that drive large databases or transactions. There is a lot less latency because there are a lot less connections and wires. And from an overall management standpoint (regarding) systems and operations, a single-image system vs. a cluster approach is a heck of lot more efficient to manage and to protect from security infringements.

Q: Where do you see your growth coming from? Is it migration off Unix systems?

There are several of the customers that we currently have, like JetBlue (Airways Corp. in Forest Hills, N.Y.), that standardized on the Microsoft environment. And it makes sense for them to standardize because there are significant cost savings. There are many companies looking to standardize because they can't afford the cost of managing this more complex, heterogeneous scale-down environment. A lot of customers are looking to consolidate. So that's a very, very big marketplace. Everybody is looking to reduce cost, simplify their environments, simplify their training, less space, less utilities and put it all together in one.

Q: You are heavily aligned with Microsoft. There are fears among some enterprise managers that standardizing on Microsoft throughout the enterprise potentially makes them vulnerable to one vendor. Is this a fear you are going to have to deal with?

We got a great partnership (with Microsoft) and it's continued to grow and mature over the past four to five years that we have worked together. Are we concerned about it being a single environment? It all comes down to the amount of value that they can continue to add. There's a lot to be said about having a standard environment, and there's a lot to be said about all the applications and solutions that are available to run on that (Microsoft) environment. I don't think Microsoft is stupid; I don't think they are going to put themselves in front of a (new) antitrust case. I think they operate very fairly.

Q: What market segment, type of company, are you targeting with your new line?

We're still focused on the same markets that we've always been focused on, and that's at the high end at the enterprise level. This new product series allows us to get down a little bit lower, to the midtier, and offer the same mainframe attributes at a cost that is competitive with commodity offerings in that market.

Q: How important is the modular design?

We tried to simplify the installation. The customer now needs less qualified people to get the same benefits. And if they want to add to it, all they have to do is bring another one in, put it together and plug it in. It makes it simpler to operate, less cost for the customer, easier, less training for their people, and there is a lot of software built into it to manage the system.

Q: Is Unix a shrinking niche market?

I don't think Unix is going to go away. It will shrink a little bit. I think the biggest hit on Unix will probably be with Linux at the low end at the desktop and Web applications. The impact on Unix at the higher end is going to be the result of Microsoft and the environment that we're talking about here.

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