IBM Servers To Offer Temporary Capacity On Demand

Three iSeries models set for debut next month will be able to scale in both directions.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

January 17, 2003

3 Min Read

IBM advanced its computing-on-demand strategy Monday with the introduction of its first servers capable of scaling in both directions. When the iSeries 825, 870, and 890 servers begin shipping Feb. 21, they'll provide IT managers with the ability to turn on additional Power4 CPUs and turn them off when they're no longer needed.

All three models are capable of running OS/400, Linux, Unix, and Windows. The 825 comes with three live and three dormant processors at a starting price of $75,000. The 870 comes with eight live and eight dormant processors at a starting price of $310,000. The 890 is available in 16-way or 24-way configurations, each with the option of having eight dormant CPUs, for a starting price of $820,000.

The scalable servers are part of a two-year, $500 million initiative to spur interest in the iSeries. IBM calls this ability to scale iSeries servers up or down a "transformation" of the platform's technology that will be brought to bear on the company's Unix-based pSeries and mainframe zSeries servers. The on-demand feature lets IT managers switch capacity on or off as they need it. IBM is charging $1,100 per processor per day for scaling up the iSeries 825 and $1,300 per processor per day for the 890 server. By comparison, it would cost $50,000 to permanently add a single processor to an 825 and $60,000 to do so for an 890.

"There are a lot of $100 million companies that can use these on-demand capabilities," says Dave Money, E-business practice leader for Andrews Consulting Group. IBM, which since 1983 has sold more than 750,000 servers from the iSeries line and its predecessors, is also introducing two new one- and two-way servers--the 800, which starts at $10,000, and the 810, which starts at $11,000. IBM this week also rolls out WebSphere-Express for iSeries, a version of its middleware priced at $2,000 per CPU or $25 per user that's designed to help small and midsize businesses build and manage Web sites.

Money says that, although the iSeries market isn't growing, it's not an unusual move for IBM to introduce such innovative technology on the platform. "The business case there is that they've got customers who have peak weeks or peak months, so a lot of their customers have been suffering through certain times when response time is slow," Money says.

"It really sounds like iSeries will be the foundation of IBM's servers going forward," Money says, adding that he believes the company is moving toward a consolidated server within the next few years that will combine the features of all IBM's existing server lines (iSeries, pSeries, xSeries, and zSeries).

Huhtamaki Americas, a manufacturer of molded cartons, trays, and plastic containers, runs its critical SSA BPCS manufacturing resource planning, financial, inventory, and other apps on an iSeries 890 it bought in June. The 890 shipped with 16 live CPUs and another eight that are dormant, and supports about 1,500 users throughout the company's 13 North American plants. Brendan Carlton, a Huhtamaki systems engineer, says the manufacturer uses the scalability primarily for month-end processing, compiling financial reports, and sending those reports to the company's headquarters in Finland.

"It's going to save us productivity time," Carlton says. "Before this, if we had to scale up, I had to go out and buy a new system and have downtime while setting up the new servers. For every hour of downtime, there's a potential of $1 million to $2 million in lost productivity per hour."

Hewlett-Packard has offered its own version of temporary instant capacity on demand for some of its Alpha servers since August. Companies buy the capacity much like they would purchase a phone card from a convenience store. HP sells a 30-day license for $3,400 and sends the customer an electronic key that activates the processors. The customer can scale the system back down by sending a message to HP to turn off the processors or wait until the 30-day license expires.

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