Memory glitch delays IBM Power blade

A memory problem triggers a three-month delay in Big Blue's JS20 server, a system at the center of three major strategies in the company's server group.

A memory problem has triggered a three-month delay in IBM's JS20 server, a system at the center of three major strategies in Big Blue's server group, the company confirmed Monday.

The JS20, which uses dual PowerPC 970 processors, already was delayed from a late 2003 launch to early March. But one customer testing early systems encountered a problem involving "memory robustness," said IBM spokesman Jim Larkin, and the server maker postponed general shipments until it can resolve the issue.

The systems now are scheduled for June 11 availability, Larkin said. The problem "has been completely resolved to the satisfaction of IBM and the customer," he added.

The JS20 embodies three major IBM server strategies. First, it uses a member of IBM's Power family processors, which the company aimed initially at Intel's Itanium and Sun Microsystems' UltraSparc, but which increasingly competes with Intel's widely used Xeon as well.

Second, the JS20 runs Linux, an operating system that bridges some divides between IBM's four server lines. Linux is comparatively common on "x86" processors such as Intel's Xeon and Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron, but IBM is trying to build a comparably vigorous Linux software community for the Power processors.

Last, the JS20 is a blade server, a type of system that slides snugly alongside others in a chassis that provides shared components such as power supplies and networking switches. IBM believes that many of today's lower-end standalone servers eventually will be replaced by blade servers.

The problem with the JS20 doesn't involve its processor, the PowerPC 970, Larkin said. IBM has had manufacturing problems with the chips, but said earlier in May that the quality is improving.

However, shipments of Apple Computer's Xserve, which also uses the PowerPC 970, have been constrained by a shortage of chips from IBM. "Obviously we were not happy with the delivery we got," Timothy Cook, Apple's executive vice president of worldwide sales and operations, said in April, adding that the company hopes to have caught up with demand by the end of June.

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