IBM Tackles Falling Unix Market With Low-Power, Low-Cost Servers

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IBM on Wednesday carried its assault on the Unix server market to the low ground with a new entry-level pSeries model featuring reduced power consumption.

IBM's new entry-level p610 models, 6C1 rack-mount and 6E1 tower servers feature 333MHz Power3-II processors, enabling them to consume 57 percent less energy and produce 63 percent less heat than comparable Sun Microsystems 280R servers, said Chuck Bryan, director of product marketing for IBM's pSeries servers.

Prices for the new servers start at $5,995 for a one-way configuration. Two-way versions are also available. That compares with a starting price of $7,495 for IBM's other p610 servers, introduced last October with 375MHz and 450MHz processors, said Bryan.

IBM also enhanced its entire p610 family with integrated RAID 5 support, a first for products in this market segment, Bryan said.

The 375MHz and 450MHz versions of the p610 servers include six hot-swap drive spaces, while the new 333MHz version has space for three drives and an option for three more. Three hard drives are required to take advantage of RAID 5 capabilities, Bryan said. "By making space for the second set of three hard drives an option, it helps cut prices for customers who do not need them," he said.

The p610 family of servers runs under AIX 4.33 and AIX 5L, and natively under 64-bit Linux from SuSe.

The new entry-level p610 is both good and bad news for solution providers, said Joe Wurtz, vice president of eServers for MSI Systems Integrators, an Omaha, Neb.-based VAR.

"It's priced very aggressively to move in the low end against Sun and HP," said Wurtz. "So we will need to sell a lot to make up the revenue. But customers need the servers."

The low-power feature is a big play for the telemarketing and telco market space, Wurtz said. "Our e-business clients will use this as an edge server. Depending on the function, it will fit into some really high-volume applications. If someone wants to stay with a full AIX solution, this is a good choice."

IBM's move into the low end of the Unix market comes a day after Gartner Dataquest released a report showing the company continues to slowly catch up to rival Sun in terms of units shipped despite the anemic condition of the market overall.

The Unix server last year took a beating, falling by 25 percent in terms of revenue, according to Gartner Dataquest. 2001 revenue amounted to $7.7 billion, compared to $10.3 billion in 2000.

Sun remained the number one vendor in the Unix space, with revenue of $3.6 billion, or 46.4 percent of the total, in 2001. However, this compares to the $4.8 billion in revenue for the company in 2000.

IBM kept its number two spot, shipping $1.6 billion worth of Unix servers, or 20.9 percent of the market, in 2001. The year earlier, IBM's Unix server revenue was $1.8 billion in 2000.

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