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IBM's Data Center Bender

Computing giant IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) this week announced a raft of announcements targeting the data center, including server upgrades, new R&D projects, and the acquisition of a Danish consulting and services firm.

It's all part of IBM's plan to stay competitive in data centers against high-end server rivals like Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) and Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW), and even against low-cost rivals like Dell Inc. (Nasdaq: DELL).

On the systems front, IBM will upgrade its largest non-mainframe server, the 32-processor p690, to 64 processors later this year, said David Ayd, systems chief engineer, at the Share 2004 IBM user conference in New York City yesterday (see Share Sessions Scrutinize IBM). Also, he noted, system throughput will soon be added to the list of things that customers can buy as part IBM's on-demand model, with an I/O server drawer that can be turned on when needed.

In addition, officials said, IBM will start shipping the new midrange eServer i5 550 next month. That server runs up to four Power5 processors, which can also be bought with the on-demand approach: Customers can either pay-per-use, as with a phone card, or pay at the end of each month, in a metered utility setup. The servers aren't cheap, with Standard Edition (two-processor) bundles starting in the mid-$70,000 range. Activating the additional processors costs $3,700 each, and buying software options can push the cost over six figures, officials said.

IBM customers can make individual physical servers function as multiple logical servers with the Virtualization Engine, now shipping, officials also said yesterday. The technology in many cases requires that applications be specially prepared for it -- so, to help, software firm Sine Nomine Associates wrote code for the popular Apache servers and the MySQL database and, per open-source rules, will give it back to the community, officials said.

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