IBM puts meat on its On Demand bones

Trying to add some meat to the bones of its On Demand strategy, IBM on Tuesday rolled out its fastest Unix-based servers to date accompanied by new pricing models that allow corporate users to better match up available processing power and memory with their on-the-fly business demands.

The new eServer p690, which company officials claim is 65 percent faster than its predecessor, the p655, is fueled by a 1.7GHz version of the Power 4+ chip that features a built-in Level 3 cache. IBM plans to target the system at users looking to both consolidate workloads and host industrial-strength single-system applications.

Accompanying the higher-end p690 is the p670, a mid-range Unix-based system that is powered by a 1.5GHz Power 4+ chip and features the same I/O subsystem and cache improvements.

In a third hardware unveiling, the company rolled out a "cluster-optimized" eServer 655 that is now being offered with both the new 1.7GHz processor and the 1.5GHz Power 4+ processor, along with the Level 3 cache and new I/O subsystems. Newly redesigned, the p655 is capable of a performance increase of up to 83 percent, or up to 0.75 teraflops of peak performance running data-intensive applications, company officials claimed.

The two processors will be available on the p655 starting this July, a company spokesman said.

"We have been talking a lot about On Demand computing since last October 30, but people are going to judge you on deeds, not words. With theses systems and the new pricing models, users can hold something in their hands for the first time that can show them what we are talking about," said Jim McGaughan, IBM's Launch Strategist for the pSeries.

To further nudge users toward its companywide On Demand computing initiative, IBM is offering new pricing models that will allow them to turn on and off processors as and when they need them. Users can now choose from both a temporary and more permanent capacity of demand options.

Also for the first time, IBM's Memory On Demand capability enables users to install a variety of features, with unused memory that can be activated in increments of 4GB, a company spokesman said.

"We think that with the new pricing users can more truly work in an on-demand environment and avoid the lag time of being dependent on IBM or their business partners to turn on the capacity they need," McGaughan said.

To make it more attractive for users to try out the new pricing models, IBM introduced the Try and Buy program, which offers a 30-day trial at no additional charge for both memory and processor capacity upgrades. This program allows users see what sort of capacity they actually need to run their operations and so better decide what they will need on a temporary or permanent basis.

And in a fourth new pricing program, IBM officials said they plan to offer select software such as DB2 and Tivoli for pSeries by the day when temporary capacity is turned on by a user. IBM expects to make this available to users in this year's third quarter.

"Given today's economic environment, most users can't afford to pay for the use of systems that sit idle or do not have the capacity they need to generate revenues during periods of peak performance," said Adalio Sanchez, general manager of IBM's eServerpSeries.

The new p690 will be available starting May 30 and will carry an entry-level price tag of US$493,386 for an eight-way configuration. The p670 in a four-way configuration will cost $190,411.

For more information about the new system and pricing models, users can go to