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Big Blue's new big iron

IBM revamps its corporate enterprise server that it says outperforms its predecessor and cuts prices on older models.

In an attempt to grab a bigger share of the high-end enterprise market, IBM has released a new version of its corporate enterprise server that the company says substantially outperforms its predecessor.

Big Blue also cut prices on older models by 37 percent.

The improvements to the S70, which is part of the RS/6000 computer family, mostly involve the processor. The new version of the server come with 4 to 12 RS64-II processors, a new 64-bit processor from IBM Semiconductor. At 292 MHz, the RS64-II is roughly twice as fast in terms of clock speed as the RS64, according to Brian Sweeney, the company's vice president of enterprise servers.

"We're seeing 1.5 times to 2.6 times the performance improvement," Sweeney said, depending on the application. "It's the same serial number with double the performance."

Later in the year, IBM also will release the Power 3, a 64-bit chip designed for its AS400 server product line.

With the new processor, the PC giant can now offer a wide range of servers in this class, Sweeney said. The advanced S70, with the new RS64-II processors, comes in configurations using 4, 8, or 12 processors and up to 16GB of memory. The S70 runs IBM's AIX Unix operating system. Prices start at $125,000.

In addition, the company will continue to offer 4- to 12-processor systems using the older processor with prices. The systems, with the product rollout, were slashed from $125,000 to $85,000. Processor upgrade books--upgrade modules which include four new processors, the necessary chipsets, and additional cache--are also available.

"This gets us positioned against a range of Sun and HP servers," Sweeney said. "This spans three HP models and the same number of Sun models."

He further noted that IBM will continue to emphasize development of systems around its RISC processors, including the RS64-II and Power 3, for several years. Development teams for the chips have been combined, which saves costs. Recent delays with the Merced chip from Intel also highlight the competitive buffer that established platforms such as IBM's can enjoy.