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IBM Unveils New Power5 Unix Servers

IBM's debuting four systems incorporating its Power5 microprocessor that mark a major refresh of its Unix server lineup.

IBM on Tuesday unveiled a major refresh of its Unix server lineup, debuting four systems that incorporate its state-of-the-art Power5 microprocessor.

The servers range from the $10,800, dual-processor p5-520 machine to 16-processor, p5-570 systems priced at more than $200,000. They will be sold under IBM's pSeries line of eServers. Later this year, IBM plans to introduce the Power5 chip in other computing lines, including blade servers.

The 64-bit, Power5 chip made a limited debut earlier this year in IBM's iSeries servers. Among other things, it features simultaneous multithreading, a capability that lets it more efficiently process data and more robust L2 and L3 cache-memory systems. Clock speeds range from 1.5 GHz to 1.9GHz. IBM officials say that independent third-party tests from organizations such as the nonprofit Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (Spec.org) show that the new p5 systems significantly outperform comparable systems from rivals.

"Moore's Law is reaching its limits, but we're continuing to realize performance gains because we're engineering at the system level, not the chip level," says Ravi Arimilli, the company's chief microprocessor architect. All of the new p5 servers will be able to run IBM's AIX Unix operating system or the open source Linux operating system from either Red Hat Inc. or Novell's SuSE Linux.

IBM officials also are touting the p5's so-called virtualization engine technology, through which users can subdivide each processor into a virtual server running its own instance of an operating system and applications. That could allow, say, a hosting company that needs to host certain customers on physically separate systems to consolidate them onto a single machine without compromising security. The technology lets users create virtual servers that consume as little as one-tenth of a processor's resources, affording a level of granularity that analysts say is unique. "Competitors' hardware-driven partitioning schemes typically require multiples of four processors in every partition," says Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff, in a research note published Tuesday.

IBM hopes that demand for the new systems will be sufficient to give it a boost in the $21 billion annual Unix server market. In 2003, the company ranked third with a 26.4% market share, according to International Data Corp. With a 31.9% share, Hewlett-Packard held the top spot over second place Sun Microsystems, which claimed 30% of the market.

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