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IBM unveils new Power5 eServer i5 550

The latest edition to Big Blue's Power5 family boasts new systems management and virtualization features. An analyst says it provides flexible upgrade options for midsize businesses.

In a move to provide companies with more affordable processing power and flexible upgrade options, IBM today unveiled the eServer i5 550, the newest member of its family of Power5 processor-based servers.

Big Blue said the 550 includes new systems management capabilities and a new virtualization engine, and is designed for small and midsized businesses.

The eServer i5 550 joins the IBM server family, which includes the eServer i5 520 and the eServer i5 570. The 550 scales to up to four processors, while the 520 and the 570 scale to two and 16 processors, respectively.

"It includes all the virtualization engine technology we announced and are delivering on the 520 and 570," said Craig Johnson, IBM's iSeries marketing manager.

The 550 includes new Virtualization Engine system services software, a set of technologies that allows customers to partition workloads across multiple platforms. Those technologies include the IBM Director Multiplatform, a management tool for centralizing IT management and monitoring multiple operating systems, and the IBM Enterprise Workload Manager, for isolating problems that arise while workloads are under way.

The 550 comes in four editions, including the Standard Edition, the Enterprise Edition and the newly announced Domino and Solution editions.

Starting at $74,000,the Standard Edition is the baseline offering; can support AIX; offers baseline support for i5 OS, AIX, Linux; and can integrate xSeries servers as well, Johnson said.

The Enterprise Edition, starting at $266,000, adds to the multi-OS support, the ability to run IBM's Online Transaction Processing and includes bundled management software. Enterprise Edition also includes vouchers for free educational classes that can be conducted at the customer's headquarters location.

The Solution Edition, starting at $206,000, adds software from various third-party vendors. IBM said the software package is designed to deliver additional systems management capabilities and functionality for users of the Virtualizaton Engine Systems Services.

IBM said that the Domino Edition, starting at $56,000, is available for customers who want to consolidate Domino servers or migrate away from Microsoft Exchange servers. The Domino Edition comes standard with two active processors.

IBM today also announced new options for users who want to integrate and manage Intel-based Linux servers in the eServer i5. The company said that Linux and Windows are now supported through the optional Integrated xSeries Server and Adapter.

The IBM eServer i5 550 will be available on Sept. 10. The IBM eServer i5 550 Standard Edition starts at $74,000.

Easier upgrades

One interesting thing about the mid-tier focused 550 is that it is being offered with three capacity upgrade on demand processors, said Charles King, research director for The Sageza Group, a Union City, Calif.-based analyst firm. Customers who purchase the server with a single processor receive the three additional processors that can be activated later.

"This puts a very flexible processor upgrade capacity into the hands of much smaller businesses," King said.

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Also, he added, Power5 server models increase the number of virtual machines that can be supported on a single processor by 150%.

"You can now host 10 server workloads on a single Power5 processor on the iSeries," King said. "It makes it an interesting consolidation play."

More for less

A manufacturer of office supply furniture, Group Dekko LLC employs about 1,800 people and uses an IBM eServer i5 520, as well as a 570, to manage enterprise resource planning and e-mail systems. The company also uses the servers as production centers for new applications.

Chris Edwards, vice president of systems with the Kendallville, Ind.-based company, said that while he feels IBM's server prices could always be lower, they do provide a solid return on investment.

Edwards said that Group Dekko experienced a significant jump in price/performance after migrating to the Power5-based servers.

"You're able to get more processor for fewer dollars per CPW than you could in the prior generations," Edwards said. "It has drastically reduced our ongoing maintenance costs for a machine that has a lot more power."

The virtualization engine, which is also available on the 520 and 570 models, has also proven to be a boon to productivity levels at Group Dekko by eliminating the need for third-party software to monitor partitions.

"Before with partitions … if you wanted to move processing resources dynamically you could do that, but someone had to go in and initiate it," Edwards said. "With the new version, it will basically balance itself."

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