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IBM shows off new servers

Intended for electronic commerce, NetFinity servers support up to four Pentium Pro processors.

IBM (IBM) took the covers off a new line of Intel-based servers that will compete with recent offerings from Compaq and Hewlett-Packard.

The NetFinity servers support up to four Pentium Pro processors running at 200 MHz and use a new, modular chassis that eases component upgrades, according to Linene Krasnow, vice president of marketing for NetFinity servers. Base price for a one-processor NetFinity server with a 200-MHz Pentium Pro with 512K of L2 cache is $15,975.

The company is also developing a series of software enhancements and support offerings for the NetFinity that will make it easier to manage these machines remotely, Krasnow said. The emphasis on service comes as a result of the fact that customers are increasing their reliance on PC-type servers. "Intel-based servers are now being used in business critical applications," she said.

NetFinity will become the new brand name of all PC-servers and related service offerings from IBM, Krasnow explained. The 7000 essentially replaces IBM's 704 series of PC servers, which are IBM's current high-end servers. The NetFinity brand will next be extended to the midrange and low-end servers, she added.

The NetFinity 7000 will be manufactured through the company's Authorized Assembly Program, a distributed manufacturing program in which a limited number of qualified resellers actually build computers from parts received from IBM and its suppliers. The Authorized Assembly Program is part of a more global manufacturing and assembly scheme called the Advanced Fulfillment Initiative. In the end, the programs are expected to increase customized configurations and reduce prices.

The new servers target the same market as Compaq's ProLiant servers. Last month, Compaq released the ProLiant 7000, a Pentium Pro server with hot-swapable disk drives starting at $17,000. Hot-swapable drives are an important ingredient in building a fault-tolerant server infrastructure, since this technology allows for faulty drives to be replaced while the servers are still up and running.

IBM ranked third among PC server vendors for the first half of the year, according to International Data Corporation. Compaq held the top spot with 30 percent of the market, followed by HP, which commanded a 14 percent share. IBM accounted for 12 percent while upstart Dell claimed a 7 percent share.

IBM is also attempting to increase its server presence in the Japanese market. Earlier this week, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Japan's largest business daily, reported that IBM and Microsoft are hashing out a strategic alliance to increase sales of NT-based servers in Japan.