IBM plans to soon release a new version of its pSeries 630 that is powered with its most powerful chip to date, the Power4+ processor.
Karl Freund, vice president, IBM eServer pSeries, claimed the addition of the Power4+ chip will make the p630 the most powerful entry-level 4-way server on the market, with as much as three and a half times the performance of a comparable machine from Sun Microsystems.
The new eServer, a more powerful refresh of its inaugural p630 machine from last June, is a another frontal assault on Sun's v480, which was released a week before IBM's first p630.
The fact that Big Blue has chosen to outdo what it already thought was a superior machine less than a year later demonstrates the importance IBM places on the low end of the Unix server market. In fact, according to the most recent server statistics from Gartner, Sun remains directly behind IBM in both worldwide and U.S. market share.
"This is a hot space in the market," Freund told internetnews.com. "The more processor performance you can show a customer in the 4-way space the better. If you can show a customer how to save money, you're going to earn his business."
Freund said putting Power4+ chips on the p630 is a continuation of IBM's play to offer an attractive "price/performance equation." He said a 4-way eServer p630 set an industry record in recent benchmark tests for entry-level systems, supporting 1,988 simultaneous connections, compared to the 568 connections registered by the 4-way Sun Fire v480.
"We're not making the compromises Sun is making in the 4-way server class," Freund said. "They haven't moved [since announcing the v480 in June], and we're blowing them away in performance and with our reliability features. This is the first product in this price range has delivered mainframe-class features. We've gone past the experimental stage with the [Power4+]."
Freund said the Sun v480 doesn't offer logical partitioning (LPAR), which lets enterprises divide the machine into up to four "virtual" servers to handle shifting workloads. And, he said, Sun doesn't offer the server with Linux.
Clay Ryder, vice president and chief operating officer at research fimr Sageza Group, said the newly amped server is nice, but may be shortlived, as things often are in the ever evolving server landscape.
"Yes, the P4+ should make for a screaming server, but these kinds of leapfrog leads are often shortlived," Ryder told internetnews.com. "Nonetheless the new box is pretty impressive and is important, as it demonstrates that the power architecture still has quite a bit of performance yet to come.
The p630 with Power4+ technology attracted at least one major customer -- watchmaker Fossil.
"Having a Power4++ based eServer p630 system falls directly into our long-term technology plans for acquiring the highest levels of server performance at the lowest possible cost," said Ed Jurica, CIO of Fossil.
Power4+ chips are designed via the 0.13 micron fabrication process and contain more than 180 million transistors. Evenutally, it will give way to the next-generation Power5 chip, which was demonstrated earlier this week at PartnerWorld in New Orleans. IBM officials said it will be four times faster than the Power4 and will be available in both high- and low-end systems by the end of 2004.
The p630 runs the AIX and Linux operating systems. IBM plans to make these systems available February 28.