Hardware Today: Fujitsu Server Snapshot

by Drew Robb

Fujitsu continues to refresh its Primepower and Primergy lines, but the big news is its Powerquest servers. Built for Linux and Windows environments, the new products are designed to scale database and high-performance computing applications.

In recent years, Fujitsu Computer Systems has focused on selling its servers to Fortune 1000 customers running large applications. According to IDC figures, the company has been gaining ground mainly in the Unix market by delivering high performance Primepower servers that support SPARC/Solaris applications.

Now the company is adding a new quest to it mission, making a major play in the Windows/Linux space. It has already upgraded its existing Intel server line — Fujitsu Primergy servers — with 64-bit Intel Xeon Processors as well as 4-way blades. In the near future, though, the company will add a new high-end Itanium-based Primequest line. The goal of Primequest is to open up new opportunities in the Linux and Windows environment particularly in the capability to scale database and high-performance computing applications.

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"Primequest high scale, advanced high availability features, processor upgradeability, and flexible I/O capability, make it an entirely credible Big Iron platform for Linux and Windows," said Gordon Haff, an analyst with Illuminata, a Nashua, N.H.-based research firm.

Three Lines Primed
As can be seen in the "FCS Servers at a Glance" table, Fujitsu offers three distinct server categories — the Primepower, the Primergy, and the Primequest.

For several years, the company has announced regular upgrades to the Primepower server family. Most recently, it added support for SPARC64 processors with over 2GHz clock speeds. "The new Primepower server performance improvements provide investment protection for customers with existing Primepower servers," said Richard McCormack, senior vice president, Product & Solutions Marketing, Fujitsu Computer Systems. "They also improve the throughput capacity of new systems and bring additional processing power to Solaris-based applications."

Primepower servers can run anywhere from 1 to 128 SPARC chips in the 1.3 to 2+ GHz speeds. Prices range from $6,400 for an entry level system up to over $1 million for the whole works.

On the Primergy side, Fujitsu now sells servers with a complete mix of processors — the low-voltage Pentium III, Celeron, Pentium M, Xeon MP, Itanium 2 and 64-bit Intel Xeon. In addition, Primergy servers were redesigned from the ground up with optimized airflow designs known as Cool-Safe. According to McCormack, cooling effectiveness has been raised by as much as 120 percent over earlier Primergy servers.

"The Primergy product line has been refreshed to include more powerful Intel CPUs for faster application processing," McCormack said. "Changes to server design for more efficient cooling helps customers to address the ever increasing problem of heat dissipation and power consumption in today's increasingly high density data centers."

Fujitsu is also growing its blade offerings. The Primergy BX600 4-way blade is the latest addition, up from a previous 2-way limit. The BX600 comes with integrated Digital KVM for advanced remote management, Ethernet Pass Thru modules for greater Ethernet configuration flexibility, and improved deployment software.

Fujitsu Servers at a Glance
Server LineDescriptionProcessor TypesProcessor RangeOperating SystemsServersPricing
Primequest Mainframe-class platforms for hosting Linux and Windows environments on Intel Itanium 2-based servers. Available in chassis-form onlyItanium 2 (Madison)1 to 32Windows Server Enterprise Edition, Datacenter Edition, SUSE Enterprise Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Linux440
Starting at $75,000 to more than $1 million for large configurations
PrimepowerFast bus technology combined with the latest in SPARC processor development, providing performance and scalability in a Solaris Operating System platformSPARC64 V1 to 128 SPARC64 VSolarisWorkgroup
$6,400 (for the 250) to more than $1 million (for any of the Enterprise systems)
PrimergyIndustry standard servers for mainstream Windows and Linux deployments. Includes products ranging from blade servers to 8/16-way systems for database or virtualization applicationsPentium III, Celeron, Pentium M, Pentium 4, 64-bit Xeon, Xeon MP, Itanium-2Pentium III, Pentium M, Celeron, or Pentium 4; 1 to 2 Xeon, 4 to 16 Xeon MP, or 1 to 4 Itanium-2Windows, SUSE Linux, Red Hat Linux, VMware ESX ServerRack (RX)
Tower (TX)
Blade (BX)
From $1,000 (for the RX100) to $245,000 (for the RX800)


>> Quest Takes on IBM and HP


Quest Takes on IBM and HP
The big news, as noted above, is Fujitsu's introduction of the Primequest family of servers, which start shipping later this year. Based on Itanium processors and designed with mainframe technology and features, Primequest servers operate in Linux and Windows environments.

"Primequest Itanium servers allow customers to scale-up their Linux and Windows applications where high CPU and I/O performance and data center class availability are key requirements," McCormack said.

While it's using an off-the-shelf Itanium 2 processors, the company developed its own chipset for Primequest for the first of the series to be made available in the fall — the Primequest 440 and 480 models. According to Illuminata, this pits Fujitsu firmly against the big server vendors.

"Primequest places Fujitsu in a gladiatorial coliseum with a considerable cast of competitors," Haff said. "Fujitsu has explicitly declared battle with IBM and HP."

IBM eServers, for example, have been performing well in the marketplace by combining Linux with POWER5 and Xeon MP servers. Fujitsu's latest line will go up against these IBM machines as well as HP Integrity Superdome systems using Itanium processors.

Developed in Japan by a team of 100 engineers, Primequest servers use Intel Madison 1.5 or 1.6 GHz processors. These new servers, though, will also support Intel Montecito dual-core processors when they come out in 2006 as well as the Montvale chips, which are expected to ship some time after that. On the software side, Primequest servers can run Windows Server (Enterprise Edition or Datacenter Edition), SUSE Enterprise Linux and Red Hat Enterprise Linux. These machines will be priced starting at $75,000.

With regard to specific models, the Primequest 440 has four system boards, 16 sockets and a half TB of memory. The 480 doubles the number of boards and sockets, though memory is pegged at a half TB in the initial version. That system, however, will soon be replaced by a 1 TB model. The system boards have a mirroring capability that allow it to be split into two segments for fault tolerance.

According to Haff, the hardware partitioning capabilities of Primequest leave something to be desired. Partitions can span multiple boards or can be as small as one system board containing four processors.

"A Primequest 480 with eight system boards today could be configured into a maximum of eight partitions," Haff said. "Compared to IBM or HP, this is a relatively coarse partition granularity."

Fujitsu notes that it plans to change things in subsequent Primequest releases. The current idea is to enable each board to be portioned into two partitions.

The Software Side: Management and Virtualization
The company has had a busy year, and by all accounts it has many more upgrades and announcements on the immediate horizon. In addition to the imminent release of the Primequest 440 and 480 servers and further upgrades to its Primergy and Primepower lines, the company is looking to add greater manageability to its server products as a whole. Although details of this are few, McCormack offered this when asked about further big plans for its server lines for the rest of the year:"Management and virtualization software is becoming more important across multiple technologies and platforms. Fujitsu will continue to introduce middleware software to manage multiple Fujitsu products and architectures. Customers will derive TCO benefits through increased server (and storage) utilization and simplified administration."

Hardware Today appears every Monday on ServerWatch.

This article was originally published on Monday Jul 18th 2005
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