IBM, Compaq advance server designs

Compaq Computer and Big Blue announce dueling dual-processor servers, trumpeting new features and improvements to their models.

Compaq Computer and IBM announced dueling dual-processor servers Tuesday, with IBM trumpeting its models' self-healing abilities and Compaq boasting of major improvements to its computer memory subsystem.

Compaq introduced two new servers, the rack-mountable 3.5-inch-thick Proliant L380 and the freestanding but more expandable ML370. The new models are the first that incorporate memory technology from Compaq that allows a backup memory bank to take over immediately from one that's failed, letting the defective part be replaced on a more leisurely schedule.

More memory improvements are coming, said John Young, vice president of the enterprise-appliances segment of Compaq's Intel server group. People will be able to add new memory to the 500 series of Compaq's Intel servers without shutting them down, he said. And the 700 series will have memory technology similar to the RAID data-protection system found on hard-disk arrays. Bringing this technology to memory will allow defective memory modules to be replaced without shutting down the server or losing data.

IBM's xSeries freestanding 232 and its 5.25-inch thick rack-mountable 342 servers both feature "software rejuvenation," the ability to automatically reboot Windows machines periodically as a less inconvenient alternative to them crashing on their own.

The software rejuvenation project is part of the multibillion-dollar Eliza project to create servers that can fix themselves without human intervention.

Both companies' servers also feature a new 1.13 GHz chip from Intel, the Pentium III-S, the server version of Intel's new "Tualatin" line. The Tualatin chips are among several advances that are making Intel servers more powerful.

The Tualatin chips are faster and cooler because they use copper interconnect technology and have circuitry built with a smaller 0.13-micron manufacturing process instead of the 0.18-micron process of today's "Coppermine" chips. The smaller size meant Intel could double the amount of high-speed "cache" memory on the Tualatin to 512K.

Compaq also expanded its TaskSmart line of server appliances, special-purpose machines fine-tuned for a specific task. The TaskSmart C is a caching server that uses Inktomi software to help speed the delivery of video and audio streams and other information. The TaskSmart W line, which uses the Linux operating system, is used for hosting Web pages.

The TaskSmart W is available now, with a starting price of $1,799. The other Compaq servers will be available in July, with the TaskSmart C starting at $7,199. No pricing was announced for the DL380 or ML370.

IBM's 342 has a starting price of $2,259, the company's Web site said. The 232 starts at $2,079.

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