New low-end Power5 server from IBM

IBM is launching a new, low-end Power5-based server which the company said was core to its plan to offer 64-bit capability at 32-bit prices. According to product manager Rohan Fernando, customers whom Big Blue wants to attract with the new eServer OpenPower 720 are those moving over to 64-bit Linux for their more mission-critical applications who would otherwise be considering AMD Opteron or Xeon EM64T (Nocona)-based servers.

Fernando said the Power5 processor's advantage is that it delivers a more linear boost to performance as processors are added: "Linux is the limiting factor, not the processor architecture. Also, in terms of raw performance, the Power chip out-performs all other CPU architectures. Combined with better scaling, this results in benchmarks showing that it delivers 50-60 percent performance more than the competition."


Performance is the big attraction of 64-bit computing and IBM claims it out-performs all the competition, including Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard. IBM's claims for the four-way OpenPower 720 include:

SPECompM2001: it beat the fastest posted HP result by 52 percent.

SPECjbb2000: it beat the fastest posted HP result by 16 percent, the fastest posted Sun result, and is one of the fastest 4-way Linux results for operations/second against all other four-way SPEC results.

SPECsfs97_R1.v3 SMP: it holds one of the top Linux results in the industry with an overall response time of 0.79 ms, and beat HP's best posted result by 65 percent.

Fernando also said that the 720 is tuned for Linux, and takes advantage of the CPU's features. "As Linux matures to support mission critical applications, IBM's new family of OpenPower systems takes Linux to the next level with Linux-tuned servers running on the Power5 microprocessor," said Brian Connors, vice president for Linux on Power at IBM. "OpenPower is a revolutionary option for businesses, particularly in the financial and retail industries, who are looking for a lower-priced, more powerful alternative to HP and Sun UNIX systems."

Operating system support

Big Blue said that "clients can leverage an extensive relationship IBM has with both Novell SuSE and Red Hat on distributions of Linux supporting the new OpenPower server."

"Novell delivers enterprise-ready software and services for Linux that provide clients with solutions that spark innovation and help drive the business," said Hal Bennett, Novell's vice president of alliances. IBM has a close relationship with Novell following its US$50 million investment in the Utah-based company which now owns SuSE, the second-biggest Linux distro.

"IBM's Linux-tuned OpenPower server at industry standard price points is the kind of solid foundation clients are looking for as the Linux workload expands. Novell's SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9, which is based on the Linux 2.6 kernel, provides support for the Power5 architecture and IBM Virtualization Engine, offering customers a reliable, flexible and proven 64-bit server foundation that significantly enhances the Linux experience", Bennett concluded.

"IBM's Linux on Power initiative and the IBM eServer OpenPower server offer Red Hat Enterprise Linux customers more great choices when building open source architectures," said Deb Woods, Red Hat's vice president of product management. "Corporate and government organizations alike are looking to take advantage of the security and value Linux offers. OpenPower with Red Hat Enterprise Linux makes it possible to deliver the advantages of Linux on a low cost, flexible and reliable hardware platform."

Pricing and availability

The initial IBM eServer OpenPower offering will be the OpenPower 720 -- available with either 1.5GHz or 1.65GHz Power5 processors. The systems will be available in a four-way rack or tower option with maximum memory of 64GB, and will be available with the advanced virtualization option. The OpenPower 720 supports SLES 9 from Novell SuSE Linux and RHEL AS 3 from Red Hat.

The OpenPower 720 systems will begin shipping on Sept 24, with a three-year warranty and a starting price of US$5,000. The advanced virtualization option is available starting at US$2,000. In the first half of 2005, IBM plans to introduce a two-way OpenPower system.