IBM Again Targets Sun, HP With New pSeries, iSeries Servers

The new offerings include the p590, a 32-way server; the p595, IBM's first 64-way pSeries server; and the i595, available in three configurations. Earlier this week, IBM unveiled a new line of enterprise-class and midrange storage arrays: the DS8000 and the DS6000, designed to grab market share from storage rivals EMC and Hitachi Data Systems as well as from HP and Sun.

What ties the product introductions together, besides their timing, is the fact that the new servers and one of the new arrays are based on IBM's Power5 microprocessor, which the company started filtering into its server lines this year.

David Stone, vice president of business development at Solutions-II, an Englewood, Colo.-based IBM solution provider, said the new storage and server lines offer "huge synergies" and economies of scale. With the Power5 architecture, IBM can share development costs for pSeries and iSeries servers and its storage arrays across one platform, which drives down overall cost and speeds time to market, he said.

"The days of IBM as a fragmented company are over," Stone said. "IBM can cut costs and development if one technology group can steal technology from another group."

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Within the Power5, IBM has married more data busses and more I/O across the busses to feed the processors, essentially turning them into single-grid solutions, according to Stone. "For storage, that gives the ability to scale up," he said. "As you add more capacity, I/O increases across the capacity."

The ties between the new server and storage products bring key benefits to customers, said Joel Kaiser, account executive at TSG Server and Storage, an Edina, Minn.-based IBM solution provider. "The two lines, working that close, mean a lot of synergy," Kaiser said. "The opportunities to use LPAR [logical partitioning] for storage is a big story. The fact that the Power5 is leading in the Unix space, and moving into storage, is a great story to tell."

Plans call for the p590 and p595 servers to replace the p690 series, said Karl Freund, vice president of pSeries product marketing at IBM. The list price of the 32-way p590 with 16 processors starts about $745,000, compared with about $1.3 million for a similarly configured p690. The p595 64-way server supports up to 20,000 users running SAP, compared with 10,175 users on a 144-way Sun E25K server, Freund said. It also offers twice the performance of HP's Superdome server with 1.5GHz Itanium processors.

IBM hopes to use the new servers to displace Sun at the top of the Unix server market, a space that's still growing for IBM, according to Freund. "Three years ago, folks kind of counted IBM out in high-end servers. But in three years, we stole 14 points of market share from Sun," he said. "This is another stepping stone in our move to market dominance."

The i595 is bundled with DB2, WebSphere and storage controls in the operating system, and it can run AIX, Linux and Windows applications, said Guy Paradise, i5 offering manager at IBM. The new server comes in an "eight-of-16-way" configuration with 16 preinstalled Power5 processors, of which eight are active and eight are on standby; a 16-of-32-way model, with 16 of its 32 processors active; and a 32-of-64-way unit, with 32 active processors, he said.

For all three configurations, the standby processors can be activated one or more at a time in one of four ways upon payment for the processor activation keys, Paradise said. Customers can test for free whether the extra processors improve performance, or they can pay to activate processors on a temporary or a permanent basis. They also can pay up front for the extra processors and activate as needed. The base eight-of-16-way configuration costs about $670,000, Paradise said.

On the storage side, the enterprise-class DS8000, based on the Power5, virtualizes up to nearly 97 Pbytes of data behind a common architecture. With the Power5 LPAR capability, storage resources can be allocated into separate logical storage partitions that can be independent and isolated. The midrange DS6000 array, which uses IBM's Power4 processor, can address to up to 67 Tbytes of capacity. Prices start at about $97,000 for a 500-Gbyte configuration.

As a follow-on to IBM's ESS Shark arrays, the DS8000 and DS6000 represent a revolutionary leap forward for IBM, TSG's Kaiser noted. "The price point and footprint they have vs. both the competition and their predecessors is unbelievable," he said.

IBM plans to ship the new servers Nov. 19 and the new arrays Dec. 3.