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7/16/2004
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IBM Touts Newest Unix Boxes' Virtual Options

Chip technology lets users divide each processor into as many as 10 virtual servers

IBM's major refresh of its Unix server lineup includes four new systems incorporating its Power5 microprocessor, which IBM says will let companies consolidate servers more effectively.

The servers range from the $10,800 dual-processor p5-520 machine to 16-processor p5-570 systems priced at more than $200,000. IBM is selling them under the pSeries line of eServers.

The 64-bit Power5 chip features simultaneous multi-threading--a capability that lets it more efficiently process data--and more-robust L2 and L3 cache memory systems. They'll run IBM's AIX Unix operating system, Linux from Red Hat Inc., or Novell's SuSE Linux.

IBM officials also tout the p5's "virtualization engine" technology, through which users can subdivide each processor into a virtual server running its own instance of an operating system and applications. The technology lets users create virtual servers consuming as little as one-tenth of a processor's resources. That affords a unique level of granularity, since competitors typically require multiples of four processors in every hardware-driven partition, Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff wrote in a research note.

Whirlpool Corp. plans to take advantage of the p5 virtualization technology. Server consolidation is a big part of the company's attempt to reduce hardware costs for more than 10,000 internal SAP users worldwide. It uses hardware partitions on p4 systems for consolidation, but that requires separate input/output and network cards for each logical partition on its servers. "That represents a considerable expense in and of itself," says Robert Gamso, senior principal systems architect at Whirlpool. Using p5's on-chip virtualization capability, Gamso could forgo additional communications hardware.

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