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High-end Power5 i5 server unveiled at COMMON

Update: IBM has put the final stake in its i5 line of Power5 servers with a new 64-way model. The system will be pitched as an on demand, consolidation powerhouse but the new servert received little fanfare at COMMON.

TORONTO - IBM took the wraps off (literally) the latest in its line of next-generation iSeries servers, the most powerful one to date, in its i5 line of systems based on the Power5 chip.

Bill Zietler, senior vice president and group executive systems group and Mike Borman, iSeries general manager showed the new server Sunday during the opening session of COMMON, the iSeries user group conference on Sunday. The new i5 was officially announced by IBM on Friday.

This completes the iSeries refresh. This is the final stake in the ground.
Guy Paradise
iSeries product marketing manager

IBM introduced the first i5 at the COMMON conference in May and has since then released three other models, including an Express version. The servers use combined technology from the pSeries, and run Linux, AIX and Windows.

The new i5 595 64-way system gives about four times the performance of IBM's high-end iSeries i890 32-way model, according to Guy Paradise, iSeries product marketing manager. It also has eight times the number of partitions, eight times the memory and adds AIX 5L to i5/OS and Linux -- the much-anticipated multiple operating support it promised back in May.

It also features 165,000 CPW, up to 2 terabytes of memory and can run up to 254 virtual servers on a single machine. Upgrades include the i825, i830, i840, i870 and i890.

"This completes the iSeries refresh," Paradise said in an earlier interview. "This is the final stake in the ground."

The company also introduced the 32-way eServer p5 590 server. The new p5 system delivers nearly three times the performance and twice the capacity of the pSeries 690 and priced as much as 45% less.

With the ability to run more than 250 virtual servers or logical partitions on a single server, the i5 595 is being pitched to data centers as a consolidation server. And as with all i5's before it, the 595 has the ability to integrate multiple applications running multiple operating systems. (The "i" in i5 stands for integration.)

Paradise said the vast majority of customers using the i5 595 would be looking for workload consolidation because of its ability to run multiple operating systems.

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"It's more than just throwing a 64-way over the fence," he said. "It's the multiple operating system that IBM brings to the table to drive value in a system this large."

Users here, however, were unmoved by the unveiling. An upgrade from the iSeries to the i5 is a long way off for many of them.

Paul Fenstermacher, an information systems manager with Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Mo., said he won't move to an i5 for at leat another year.

"We'll eventually need better performance," he said."

But waiting until all the kinks are worked out is the primary reason for waiting, he said. Apparently, according to some users, the new i5 is plague with minor problems that are frustrating integrators.

According to Clay Ryder, an analyst with the Mountain View, Calif.-based Sageza Group, users looking for high-end performance from their iSeries will not be disappointed with this offering.

"These systems do offer a mind-numbing level of performance that not all that long ago would have been available only in mainframe class solutions," he said.

But Ryder stressed something more important than performance -- IBM's ability to appeal to a broad range of user.

"The fact that a single platform can effectively target such diverse constituencies as high-performance computing, commercial banking, multimedia imaging, SMB operations and myriad third-party applications is remarkable," he said. "The value proposition of this platform is less affected by the ongoing competition for speeds and feeds supremacy that is taking place at the same time as falling hardware price points."

The i5 590 is available in three configurations: A 8-16 way (16 processors, 8 active, 8 on demand is priced at $600,000 for the standard edition; a 32-way (16 processors active) is priced at $896,000; and the 64-way (32 processors active) is $1,454,000.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Kate Evans-Correia, Senior News Editor

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