IBM Linux-Only Servers Get Warm Reception

eServer zSeries for enterprise, iSeries for SMBs

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IBM has turned up the steam on its efforts to advance Linux in the enterprise.

Days before the start of LinuxWorld in late January, the computer giant unveiled the launch of two Linux-only servers: a mainframe aimed at enterprises and an Intel-based server for the SMB market.

The IBM eServer zSeries, due to ship in March, is the company's first Linux-only mainframe. The server allows customers to run thousands of Linux images and applications on a single server and consolidate 10, 20 or more Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard or Intel servers on a single unit, said IBM executives. The zSeries, priced around $400,000, has the power of a mainframe yet requires no mainframe server operating system, which will make it more appealing to a new class of users, said IBM.

The second server, the IBM eServer iSeries, is an easy-to-deploy Power PC-based server aimed at SMB infrastructure applications such as firewalls, Web servers, and file, print and e-mail servers. Also due to ship in March, the server uses IBM's partitioning technology to allow for the consolidation of up to 15 stand-alone Linux and Windows servers in one unit. The server uses TurboLinux and SuSe and starts at less than $50,000.

Linux solution providers and ISVs said the Linux-only mainframe, code-named Raptor, and the iSeries are great additions to IBM's line card.

"Part of the issue of selling zSeries has been getting mainframe downtime to install IBM's microcode to enable new CPUs or engines or logical partitions and integrated facilities for Linux. Once these are installed, the sales cycle speeds up," said Tom Adelstein, CTO of Bynari, a Linux ISV and reseller based in Dallas. "Raptor allows IBM to bring in a trial machine with only Linux on it and get a trial under way in a few days. That's the beauty of it."

Bynari plans to launch Value Bundles,solution sets that incorporate its own InsightServer version 3.0 messaging server and Red Hat 7.2 or SuSe 7.2,for the zSeries and iSeries products at IBM's Partnerworld, to be held Feb. 17-20. InsightServer offers compatibility with the IBM eServer line running Linux.

While smaller Linux VARs appreciate the benefits of IBM's eServer line, many say it's too expensive for most SMBs.

"In situations where customers are faced with purchasing dozens of high-performance servers, it would be a good cost benefit to look at the Raptor," said Anthony Awtrey, vice president and director of integration at Ideal Technology, a solution provider in Melbourne, Fla. "But as far as the smaller SMB systems go, I've got the same complaint with IBM that I do with most other vendors. Price sensitivity is usually one of the biggest issues. All the larger vendors like Dell, IBM and Compaq are too expensive for most SMB clients we have."

But some analysts and industry watchers believe that IBM's solutions will cut into Microsoft's Windows 2000 server growth.

"IBM's Linux virtualization alternatives on the zSeries, iSeries and pSeries pose the greatest risk to Microsoft since these solutions enable customers to reduce the use of legacy Unix systems, improve security and trim licensing costs by precluding a Windows solution," said Stacey Quandt, an analyst at Giga Information Group.

"Linux brings a new class of applications,firewall, messaging, file and print,to an IBM mainframe or PowerPC platform without the lower cost of PC implementations that Microsoft traditionally assumed it would be the beneficiary of," Quandt said. IBM is a beneficiary because of scale-up options on the zSeries and iSeries and scale-out horizontal clustering options on Intel's servers, she added.

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