IBM sets sail with Regatta

IBM formally launches its long-awaited p690 high-end Unix server in Sydney today.

IBM formally launched its long-awaited p690 high-end Unix server in Sydney today.

Using technology from Big Blue’s Project eLiza, the p690 (formerly code-named Regatta) features a self-healing automatic maintenance system.

More than 5600 sensors are spread throughout the box to detect internal errors and take corrective action, by helping to determine the cause of a problem.

The p690 also features a “PCI Retry” button, which makes a second attempt to send data within the server in the event of an error; and error-correcting code and “memory scrubbing”, which detects certain types of errors when reading from memory, corrects the data and sends them back out.

The server also marks the introduction of IBM’s Power4 dual-processor “Spinnaker” chip with 1.5MB of L2 cache. The copper-based chips are claimed to be 30% more powerful than existing chips, while consuming as little as a third of the usual power.

Analyst for US-based Illuminata, Jonathan Eunance, says the p690 will give Sun some “serious competition” in the high-end Unix service market. Mainframe-style features, such as partitioning into virtual servers, will let the p690 do more work for less money, he says.

US-based IDC analyst Vernon Turner says the p690 should also bring lower maintenance costs for businesses.

“It appears IBM has tried to trap, capture and diagnose every fault condition,” he says.

IBM has 10% of the global high-end server market, estimated at $US6 billion. Sun is the market leader.

The first New Zealand customer is the University of Auckland, which should receive its system by year-end (see Auckland Uni buys second super computer).

A p690 with eight 1.1 Ghz processors, 8GB of memory and 36.4GB of storage will start at $US450,000. A more powerful model with 16 processors and 16GB of memory will start at $US760,000, compared with a similarly-configured Sun Star Fire 15K at $US1.4 million.

New Zealand prices were not immediately available. A local launch for customers is also planned.

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