IBM Tries Undercutting Bigger Unix Servers - InformationWeek

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IBM Tries Undercutting Bigger Unix Servers

It has introduced an entry-level server featuring capabilities typically found in bigger, more expensive servers.

Unhappy running third in what has essentially become a three-horse race for the Unix-server market, IBM continues to develop its pSeries line. The company has introduced the p615, an entry-level server featuring a Power4+ processor and self-managing capabilities typically found in bigger, more expensive servers.

The p615, priced starting at $5,745, runs either Linux or IBM's AIX operating system. A single-processor version begins shipping Wednesday, while dual-processors systems begin shipping June 20. The p615 includes a service processor that manages workload allocation and bit steering, which is used to redirect server traffic if a memory bit goes bad.

Although the Unix server market shrank from $19.4 billion in 2001 to $17.2 billion in 2002, according to research firm Gartner, IBM sees an opportunity to grab market share from the top two vendors--Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard. Sun Microsystems, despite its troubles, has proven in the past that there's a market for 64-bit Unix servers, both at the high and low ends, says Charles King, research director for the Sageza Group.

Earlier this month, IBM introduced Power4+-based p690, p670, and p655 servers with processor-on-demand features. The attention IBM has paid to its pSeries servers indicates there's still a sizable market for 64-bit applications that run on Unix or Linux, King says.

In December, IBM began shipping a Linux version of its p630 Power4-based server that previously had run only on IBM's AIX Unix operating system. The Linux-ready p630 runs a 64-bit version of SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 and is available in single-processor, two-way, and four-way configurations.

IBM is positioning the p615 as a server that can run 64-bit apps for individual departments or even satellite offices. "I can't say this is the equivalent of a lottery ticket for IBM, but it does give them the ability to offer a low-cost RISC-based box for running 64-bit apps," he says. The p615 "also gives them the opportunity to show they are dedicated to their Power processor architecture."

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