Hardware Today: Fujitsu Server Snapshot

by Drew Robb

Between souping up its x86 and Sparc lines and adding a new cooling system with the latest Xeon processors to its rack and tower servers, 2004 has been busy year for Fujitsu Computer Systems. Will 2005 be the year it leaps from the Other category into the Top Five?

No doubt about it, 2004 has been a busy year for Fujitsu Computer Systems. In addition to expanding the range of its Primepower and Primergy product lines, the vendor added a series of blades to the Primergy line. It also recently added a new cooling system and the latest Xeon processors to its rack and tower servers. These changes to the Primergy line are a case of technology bleeding down from its higher-end Primepower market.

Recent Server Snapshots

"We've noticed a trend over the past year of more and more users utilizing our Primergy servers for mission-critical applications," said Richard McCormack, vice president of product and solution marketing at Fujitsu. "Primepower has been designed as a high reliability system, so we are now transferring that knowledge into the lower end of the market."

The following chart shows Fujitsu's server offerings at a glance. As usual, new additions are noted in bold; newly retired servers appear in italics.

FCS Servers at a Glance

Server Line
Processor Types
Processor Range
Operating Systems
Primergy1Fujitsu's Intel-based rack, tower, and blade servers are mainly built on Xeon technology and typically in the 1 to 16 processor range. Although strong on a worldwide basis, they are not as strong in the United States as Fujitsu's SPARC-based Primepower line.Low voltage. Pentium III, Celeron, Pentium M, Pentium 4, Xeon DP, Xeon MP, Itanium-21 Pentium III, Pentium M, Celeron, or Pentium 4,
1 to 2 Xeon DP,
4 to 16 Xeon MP,
1 to 4 Itanium-2
Windows, SUSE Linux, Red Hat LinuxRack (RX)
From $1,000 (for the RX100) to $245,000 (for the RX800)
Tower (TX)
PrimepowerFujitsu's SPARC Solaris servers are based on Fujitsu's SPARC 64 V error correcting chipsets. They are architected for mission-critical applications2. Many of the Workgroup and Midrange SPARC servers are rack friendly; all allow the usual pedestal/floormount.SPARC64 V1 to 128 V

$6,400 (for the 250) to more than $1 million (for any of the Enterprise systems)
Midrange 650,
1When comparing offerings within the line, note that servers with the same numbers in different categories have similar architectures.
2The more challenging the mission for which the server is intended, the higher the model number (and price tag).

>> Line by Line

Ready for Primepower

Fujitsu's Primepower line is divided into three basic segments: Workgroup, Midrange, and Enterprise. The low-end and midrange models are rack friendly, and all servers run on SPARC Solaris. The various model numbers changed this year (e.g., the Primepower 200 became the 250 and the 400 became the 450) to reflect the change from SPARC 64 IV to SPARC 64 V chipsets and various other upgrades. With this upgrade came a transition from slower than 1 GHz and less than 1 MB of second-level cache to 1.9 GHz with 3 MB secondary cache.

These upgrades have enabled Fujitsu to shrink the Primepower footprint, as smaller systems can now run more intense workloads. Because it has driven down the cost of the chassis and maintenance by using fewer CPUs and offering a higher cache, McCormack says the company now offers enterprises better options for server consolidation.

Another enhancement is that the new SPARC processors are error correcting. They include a checking technology that enables the chips to recover from, for example, the impact of gamma rays by smashing into the chip. In such instances, the recovery takes place at the chip level, rather than at the operating system level. Advancements in processor technology were the drivers for this solution; when a chip is only 90 nanometers wide, a gamma ray is a big deal, as the impact can flip the bits and change the data.

"As much of 90 percent of errors come from this, according to our customers," said McCormack to illustrate the value of these improvements, "though I don't know of any independent studies that have determined the exact extent of the problem."

Primergy Push

The Fujitsu Primergy brand is the company's x86 offering. At the end of 2003, Fujitsu still hadn't broken into the ranks of the top-10 x86 server vendors in the United States. According to second-quarter 2004 figures from IDC, that is still the case, although upgrades to the Primergy line have resulted in a growth rate of 353 percent, claims Fujitsu.

The biggest of the recent Primergy changes occurred in early October when the rack and tower models were given a new cooling system known as Cool-Safe, and support for Intel Extended Memory 64-bit technology (AKA EM64T, AKA Nocona) was added.

Cool-Safe was created using airline simulation modeling techniques, which resulted in a streamlined housing design to increase airflow, bigger fans, and better thermal management for the EM64T. In addition to supporting 32-bit and 64-bit applications, the EM64T can adjust power usage by as much as 31 percent to prevent excessive power usage and keep cooling costs down. If the chip begins running outside of its preferred heat envelope, for example, the processor throttles down. The downside: occasional lowered performance.

The thermal management features of Nocona improve chip reliability," said McCormack. "Cool-Safe keeps the chip sufficiently cool [so] that it doesn't need to be throttled down."

In addition, Fujitsu offers Itanium-based serves, though McCormack admits the Itanium market has yet to catch fire.

New Horizons

Primepower will be ready for the upcoming release of the Solaris 10. After that, the next wave of changes probably will not not hit the shore until next year. Several Primepower enhancements are planned for 2005, as newer chipsets come on the market. The servers will then move faster than 2 GHz, with cache going greater than 4 MB. That will culminate in the next-generation Primepower (due out in 2006), which is being built in conjunction with Sun Microsystems.

On the Primergy side, McCormack reports plans to keep up with processor changes in Xeon and Itanium, and increases in blade density is planned. He expects this line to continue to gain ground in U.S. markets.

"We have seen a huge increase in Primergy sales in the U.S.A.," said McCormack. "We have achieved this by extending our range from blades through mission-critical servers."

This article was originally published on Tuesday Oct 12th 2004
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