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IBM Aims Low-Cost Unix Servers At SMBs

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.

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