NEC bulks up high end servers with Itanium and Linux

NEC Solutions announced a pair of new servers on Monday, as the company works to strengthen the high end of its hardware line.

NEC is one of the first companies to develop both a large server based on Intel Corp.'s Itanium 2 processor and a fault tolerant server that runs the Linux operating system. The company -- a division of Japan's NEC Corp. that serves North America -- showed a demonstration of its 32-processor Itanium 2 server dubbed the Express5800/1320Xc at the Supercomputing conference being held this week in Baltimore, Maryland. NEC has also started shipping its Express5800/ft system that runs the Linux OS and has a number of redundant components to guard against failures, according to a statement.

With the two new systems, NEC has upped its position in a pair of the server world's freshest markets.

By backing Intel's new Itanium 2 chip, NEC has put itself into competition with RISC (reduced instruction set computing)-based server makers such as Sun Microsystems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM Corp. The Itanium-based systems have failed to gain much traction against the competition thus far, but are expected to enjoy more success as companies like NEC bring out systems.

The Express5800/1320Xc is one of the few Itanium 2-based servers to have more than four processors and could help solidify the chip's place in the high end market.

The Express5800/ft system is also competing against servers that run on Intel's lower end Pentium and Xeon chips and that use technology formerly found only on mainframe computers. These types of fault tolerant servers such as the Express5800/ft are often used by emergency call centers or companies in the financial sector that cannot afford to have a server crash.

NEC will deliver the Express5800/1320Xc in December along with a 16 processor and 8 processor Itanium 2 server, according to the statement. Users will be able to partition the systems to run multiple copies of both Microsoft Corp.'s .NET Server 2003 Datacenter Edition operating system and Linux.

The Express5800/ft has already started shipping with Pentium III chips and NEC's FT Linux operating system, starting at US$27,199.