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eWeek: IBM Will Offer 970 Based Low End Servers

eWeek: IBM Will Offer 970 Based Low End Servers

by , 11:00 AM EDT, July 21st, 2003

Here's a bit of news that should make you IT folks sit up and take notice: An article in eWeek says that IBM will soon offer the 970 Processor, the very one Apple is using in its new line of Power Mac G5 computers, in a series of low cost servers. The new IBM servers will run Linux or AIX and will be configured as a 'blade'; rack mount server with thin form factors to allow for many to be mounted in a rack. From the article, IBM Servers to Pair Linux, New PowerPC Chips:

According to sources, the Armonk, N.Y., company plans to take on Sun Microsystems Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. with Linux servers priced at the "enterprise entry level," which IBM defines as less than $25,000. Although the current share of Linux servers running on Power processors is marginal, IBM reportedly projects nearly a 20-fold increase -- to almost half-a-million units -- by 2006.

In pursuit of this goal, IBM is poised to introduce two tiers of products: a low-end blade server and an "ultra -low-end" (ULE) rack/deskside model. The initial blade server will be based on the Power PC 970 processor (known internally as the GPUL) , which made its debut this month in Apple Computer Inc.'s Power Mac G5 line . A mid-2004 replacement for the blade as well as the ULE products will run on an updated version of that chip, known as the GPUL2.

[...]

The ULE models, which will run Linux and IBM's AIX OS, will ship in 2U two-way and 4U four-way configurations. A base configuration of the 4U is expected to cost less than $3,500, sources said.

[...]

Sources report that IBM internal documents portray Sun and HP as the main targets of the new server effort; these companies offer only Intel-based Linux servers. With the upcoming PowerPC 970- and GPUL2-based ULE products, IBM will stress better performance than Xeon-based servers, 32- and 64-bit compatibility with no migration costs or penalties, and linear price scaling from two-way to four-way systems. Against Itanium and Itanium 2 servers, IBM will promote the ULE as cheaper, less power-hungry, cooler and easier to set up.

You can read the full article at eWeek News.

The Mac Observer Spin:

We find this very interesting on several fronts:

  • First: We have to believe that Apple will be upgrading its own line of server with the new 970 processor. If that is true then IBM would become a direct competitor. It will be interesting to see how Apple Xserve fair against IBM's superior marketing muscle.
  • Second: IBM's new servers will emphasize ease of use, according to the article; a strong point for buying Apple. One must understand that, in the server market, ease of use means something entirely different than it does for desktops and laptops.

    Servers are about details. What you do on a server affects every client that uses it, so things must be done right and the administrator must have even the most trivial information available when configuring and maintaining services. While Apple is known for its ability to make computers that get out of the user's way and allow them to work, in the server world almost the opposite approach is needed. Information about services must not be hidden, but presented in a way such that administrators can make appropriate decisions and take the appropriate actions.

    IBM understands this as they have been in the server market since forever. Apple's second foray into the server market shows that the company is at least aware that servers are a different animal, and they've done well when there was few alternatives. It will be interesting to see if IBM can emulate Apple's approach to server building, and if Apple can match IBM's understanding of the server market and mentality.
  • Third and last: We would think it is well within the realm of the possible if Apple and IBM collaborated on more than just processor design. The low end server market is an arena that IBM may not fully understand and it may be an area were Apple can offer some expertise. In fact, we wouldn't at all surprised to hear that IBM will offer OS X as an alternative to Linux or AIX on the servers it sells, or that Apple's 970 based Xserves will actually be built on the same assembly line as IBM's new servers. Either would make sense: Apple has sold AIX based servers before and IBM may be itching to offer a *nix server that works well in a Windows environment and is easy to use.

No matter how you dice it, the low end server market just got a bit more interesting.

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