IBM Aims Low-Cost Unix Servers At SMBs

Big blue puts bull's eye on Sun, releasing a pair of low-priced Unix-based servers geared for small and midsize businesses.

October 6, 2004

3 Min Read
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IBM on Tuesday pushed harder against rival Sun by releasing a pair of low-priced Unix-based servers geared for small and midsize businesses.

The two new servers in the pSeries line, the eServer p5-520 and p5-550, are the latest additions to IBM's Express portfolio, a wide-ranging selection of hardware and software that the Armonk, N.Y.-based firm dubs with the moniker as a way to designate its SMB offerings.

"We like to think of [Express] as like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval," said Karl Freund, the vice president of IBM's pSeries product marketing. The Express server solutions, added Freund, are pre-configured, pre-tested systems "ready to rock 'n' roll."

Like earlier iSeries servers added to the Express family, the p5-520 and p5-550 rely on IBM's newest processor, the Power 5. First available in July in pSeries systems, the Power 5 supports IBM's virtualization technology, a key component of the company's 2004 strategy. Virtualization Engine, as IBM dubs the technology, lets administrators slice and dice a physical processor into as many as ten "virtual" CPUs, each with its own OS, including Linux AIX 5L. IBM pitches P5-based systems and their virtualization capabilities as a way for shops to consolidate servers.

"The new systems are really targeted at small and medium-sized businesses, said Freund. The sweet spot, he said, is usually companies with between 500 and 1,000 employees. "Firms that size account for half the Unix market," he said, "and we continue to see tremendous interest [in Unix] from these customers." Unix's scalability and reliability, particularly in mission-critical applications such as CRM and ERP, remains a driving factor in companies choosing that OS over, say, Linux, said Freund."While Linux is doing very well in handling network loads, it's still not being deployed for business logic kind of applications," he said.

The p5-520 is a one- or two-way system running a 1.65GHz Power 5 chip, while the two- or four-way p5-550 runs either 1.5GHz or 1.65GHz processors.

Both, said Freund, are aimed squarely at Sun. "Our first p5 launch in July targeted HP," said Freund. "Now with that same technology, we dropping the price and taking it to Sun."

According to IBM's benchmarking claims, the p5-520 is 20 percent faster than a similarly-priced AMD Opteron-based server from Sun.

While research firm IDC's most recent server sales number put IBM at the top of the pile with almost a third of the global market, Sun continues to lead rivals, including IBM, in the Unix server space.IBM hopes to change that with hardware like the p5-520 and 550.

"We're providing midmarket customers something they've never had before, power and flexibility at their fingertips that allow them to grow their businesses without significantly taxing their small IT staffs and budgets," said Freund.

Prices for the p5-520 start at $3,993, while the p5-550 begins at $7,050. Not surprisingly, typical configurations run higher. On IBM's Web site, for instance, a 1.5GHz one-way p5-520 with 1GB of memory and a pair of 36.4GB drives runs $4,971. A two-way p5-520 with 2GB of RAM, meanwhile, prices out at $7,392.

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