IBM rolls out Power 5-based iSeries server

IBM on Monday took the wraps off its first server fueled by its long-awaited Power5 chip.

IBM on Monday took the wraps off its first server fueled by its long-awaited Power5 chip, with the system also containing software to run four different operating system simultaneously including Windows, Linux AIX 5L, and the newly revamped OS/400.

The eServer i5, formerly known as the iSeries, comes bundled with the company's Virtualisation Engine, a collection of embedded software technologies and services intended to help corporate users fine-tune their infrastructure and wring more value out of their existing IT assets, company officials contend.

For the first time, the new i5 server, to be aimed primarily at both midsize and small companies, has IBM's Memory on Demand and Reserve Capacity On Demand functions. These capabilities give corporate users the ability to summon additional processing or storage capacity to match their users' changing computing demands.

IBM is also integrating the full version of WebSphere Express into the newly named i5/0S, formerly called OS/400, making it an "inherent part of the operating environment," Marrese said.

"Over the past few years we have been modernizing [OS/400] by adding in the Java Virtual Machine as a smattering of WebSphere capabilities. It is a big step but we think integrating the full version (of WebSphere Express) with the operating system will make it easier to use," said Celia Marrese, vice president of marketing of IBM's eServer i5 family.

But some observers see the inclusion of the Virtualisation Engine as the most significant piece of the announcement because of its capability to shift workloads around to different processors that otherwise would be sitting idle.

"The Virtualisation Engine is a journey; it is still being developed. But it now gives users the Enterprise Workload Manager and a number of other features that enable them to move workloads around so they won't have to buy too much additional hardware. Right there you can have a huge cost savings," said Maria DeGiglio, principal business analyst at the Robert Frances Group. "It really is helping crystallise their vision of On Demand," she said.

Because the new system has more hardware commonality with the company's pSeries servers, IBM officials believe it will be more price-competitive.

"We have always been pegged as a proprietary hardware architecture. But with the Power 5, I see us now moving to an industry-standard platform. As we roll out more pSeries and iSeries servers later this year, you will see these systems not only using the same chip but also built on the same hardware including form factor, memory, disks, and high-speed interconnects," Marrese said.

This ongoing effort to increase the commonality in hardware between the pSeries and i5, is meant to reassure users of IBM's continued commitment to the i5, as well as increasing the price-performance characteristics of the system, Marrese said. Marrese also hopes that achieving higher hardware commonality across the lines will quiet some iSeries users' complaints about the high cost of hardware components for those systems.

"(The) iSeries users were complaining about memory and disk prices being too high. That was due mainly to us having to create them as a special implementation for that line. I think they will see a dramatic decrease as we can now go more toward industry standard price points as driven by the Unix market. Overall there should be a 40 % price-performance improvement over iSeries systems," Marrese said.

On June 11, the company will deliver two models as part of the new line. The eServer i5 Model 520 contains as many as two processors; the higher end Model 570 can hold as many as four chips and will have the Capacity On Demand capability. Besides the new operating system and WebSphere Express, both models also have DB2 Universal Data Base.

IBM officials said the i5 systems are the result of a two-year $US500 million development effort.

The Model 520 has a starting price of $11,500; the Model 570 starts at $85,200.

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