Low-cost OpenPower servers roll from IBM

Low-cost OpenPower servers roll from IBM

Hoping to pick off those users looking to consolidate aging servers, IBM on Monday rolled out two low-cost, two-way, Power5-based machines specifically tuned to run versions of Linux distributed by Novell and Red Hat.

The rack-mountable eServer OpenPower Model 710 is aimed at both departments inside large enterprises as well as at midsize companies and will be positioned as a Linux-based alternative to archrival Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems' entry-level Unix based systems. IBM will concentrate its marketing efforts for the new system largely in the financial services and life science markets, company officials said.

"Looking at the Linux server market, which is worth US$5 billion, more than half that figure is two-way servers. And with a lot of Sun and HP users thinking of migrating -- and we see a chasm there in Sun's line where they do not have a 2U (two-processor) platform -- we think we can offer something that hits at the heart of that market," said Joe Doria, IBM's program director for Linux on Power.

Some observers believe the new IBM offering, and its overall low-end server strategy against Sun and HP, contains most of the right ingredients but caution that its OpenPower strategy is still in its developmental stages. Also, the company has to fight wars on two fronts: one with the low-end RISC-based server makers, and the other with those making Intel-based systems.

"This is only the beginning of an effort from IBM to get under competitors pricing and to take share away. The OpenPower stuff has only been available for four months now. They will compete against RISC vendors like HP, Sun, and Fujitsu, but also lots of Intel-based suppliers -- all going after the same workloads," said Jean Bozman, vice president of IDC's global enterprise server solutions.

What will work in IBM's competitive favor, according to Bozman, is that the new system is rack-mountable. Such systems are increasingly replacing many older servers in stand-alone configurations.

The Model 710, which can be purchased as either a single- or dual-processor system, has incorporated a couple of features typically associated with the IBM's higher end servers, including its Power architecture and mainframe-based virtualisation and micro-partitioning capabilities.

"We have available on the 710 the same micro partitioning, virtual I/O, and virtual SMP capabilities that are on the (higher end) Open Power Model 720 announced last September. To net it out, for an extra US$1,500 you can have a Model 710 and all the virtualisation components the 720 has," Doria said.

Along with the new hardware, IBM also announced its OpenPower Consolidation Express, which better allows midsize companies to simplify their overall IT infrastructure. Using the company virtualisation micro-partitioning software, users can consolidate multiple workloads that were previously deployed as separate Web, file, print, or firewall servers onto one Model 710.

The company also announced that SAP products have now been certified to run on the Model 710 and, later this quarter, Sybase flagship products from Sybase will also be certified.

The Model 710, which contains a 1.65GHz Power5 chip, 1GB of memory, and a 73GB drive will be available starting Feb. 18 and carry a starting price of US$3,449.

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