IBM includes Sequent technology in 64-bit Intel box

By Jaikumar Vijayan, Computerworld |  Hardware

IBM's launch of a 64-processor Intel Corp. server last week should give users a new option for hosting enterprise-class Windows 2000 Datacenter applications, according to the firm.

But users will have to wait at least until the next edition of Windows 2000 Datacenter becomes available, which could be as long as a year, before they will be able to take advantage of the new technology, analysts cautioned. They also noted that the market for similar servers is already crowded.

IBM's new xSeries 430 server is its most scalable Intel server and is based on a multiprocessor technology called Non-Uniform Memory Access (NUMA), which it acquired from its purchase of Sequent Computer Systems two years ago.

The system, which is supposed to start shipping May 1, will support the next edition of Windows Datacenter when it becomes available, as well as Sequent's proprietary Ptx operating system and Linux via the Linux Application Environment, according to IBM.

Pricing starts at approximately $160,000 for an eight-processor system with 4GB of memory and 100GB of disk storage, according to IBM.

XSeries 430

*Supports as many as 64 900-MHz Intel Pentium III Xeon processors

*Up to 64GB of memory

*Up to 582TB of common storage

*Partitioned I/O

*Clustering to 16 nodes

The system should give users a scalable platform for running enterprise applications, said Tom Manter, an analyst at Aberdeen Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass.

But "enterprise customers will have to wait at least a year before they can run Datacenter applications," said Manter.

That's because the current version of Datacenter isn't equipped to take full advantage of NUMA technology, said Rich Partridge, an analyst at D.H. Brown Associates in Port Chester, N.Y.

As a result, the new servers are most likely to be of immediate interest to users of Sequent's Ptx operating system, he said.

IBM will also have a tough time differentiating its product in a market where Unisys Corp. in Blue Bell, Pa., and several large partners such as Compaq Computer Corp. have already been shipping a similar server for some time, Manter said. Unisys' system is based on a technology called cellular multiprocessing, which lets users run Datacenter applications in a mainframelike environment.

Like the Unisys servers, IBM's xSeries 430 comes with a workload management capability that allows users to simultaneously run multiple applications on the same system.

IBM's new boxes feature a modular design under which users can expand their systems using a building-block approach. Each block is composed of four 900-MHz Intel Pentium III Xeon processors, memory and I/O that are tied to one another via a high-speed communications network.

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