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IBM readies new high-end server products

In a new salvo in the server wars, IBM on Monday will announce plans to extend its Unix server line with two new products, including a high-end machine that can run up to 24 processors.

In a new salvo in the server wars, IBM will extend its Unix server line with two new products on Monday, including a high-end machine that can run up to 24 processors.

The new products--the high-end S80, code-named "Condor," and the low-end B50, code-named "Pizzazz"--will mark a substantial improvement to the RS/6000 line of Unix-based servers, say sources familiar with the coming announcement. The Condor in particular should put IBM's RS/6000 line close in terms of performance to Sun Microsystems' successful E10000 server.

Increasingly powerful Unix servers such as the S80, Sun's E10000, and Hewlett-Packard's N-class are currently in high demand. Much of that booming market is being driven by the growth of the Internet, analysts say. Heightened demand has also been a boon for the respective bottom lines for many companies in the server market, as these systems are relatively profitable.

In addition, IBM plans to update AIX, its version of the Unix operating system, sources said. The newest version, 4.3.3, will be able to run software that will be compatible with a future version of Unix called Monterey-64, scheduled to arrive with Intel's 64-bit Merced chip in late 2000. Monterey-64 also will be able to run software written for the Linux open-source operating system through a translation technology, sources said.

Although based around Unix, IBM's PowerPC-based RS/6000 line increasingly shares characteristics of IBM's Intel-based Netfinity line. On the operating system front, Monterey will work on both PowerPC and Intel chips, and IBM will support Linux for both types of servers as well. IBM's acquisition of Sequent will result in both server lines embracing the same technique of packing dozens of chips in one server.

In addition, IBM will unveil Intel-based servers designed to be stacked in the same way as its Pizzazz servers. This makes it easier for Internet service providers (ISPs)--which have become greatly concerned with maximizing real estate in server rooms--to stack these servers inside a single rack, or to combine these different servers for hosting applications.

However, one difference that persists is that Microsoft's Windows NT operating system is available only on IBM's Intel-based machines.

The Condor lifts off
As previously reported, the S80 will be able to use as many as 24 processors, twice the number in IBM's current high-end S70A. The expectation was for two to three times the overall performance, IBM has said.

In addition, the server will be the first RS/6000 machine to use the PowerPC chips that incorporate IBM's high-speed copper interconnect technology, sources said. Further, the server uses a new architecture transfers data much faster internally.

One source familiar with the S80 said the combination of improvements lift the server performance above Sun's E10000, a server that uses up to 64 CPUs and has been popular with the rise of the Internet.

Siebel Systems, a company that sells software that lets companies track customers, endorsed the new server as a good way to house the database Siebel software.

IBM also has lined up software partners for its lower-end B50 machines, including ChiliSoft, Macromedia, and NetGravity, sources said.