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IBM Debuts Power5 Server Line for Linux

Harking to the belief that Linux is replacing Windows, Unix and other operating systems in small and medium-sized businesses, IBM unveiled a new server line optimized for the open source operating system.

Offered as an alternative to comparable, albeit more expensive, Unix systems from HP and Sun , the entry-level eServer OpenPower 720 is the first in what IBM hopes will be a long line of servers based on the new Power5 architecture, according to Brian Connors, vice president of Linux on Power.

The OpenPower 720 is a four-processor system capable of sliding easily into existing environments running Linux software from Red Hat or SuSe Linux, both tight partners of Big Blue, Connors told internetnews.com.

Though it is the inaugural machine in its own new eServer line, OpenPower 720 is the latest in a string of new boxes based on the 64-bit Power5 architecture from IBM, following the p5 and i5 systems. Rolled out this summer, the chip provides unsurpassed virtualization capabilities, provisioning as many as 10 separate servers per chip.

The 720 is no exception, Connors said. Moreover, the spokesman claimed 720 features the same reliability, availability and serviceability found in the company's mid-range or high-end Unix servers, something that has been rare in boxes running Linux to this point.

"What we are targeting here is the Unix installed based and customers looking to transition," Connors said. "So, OpenPower is looking at Sun and HP -- those customers that are out there that are left hanging. Linux itself is maturing, and we are working to help accelerate that maturity."

Starting at $5,000 the OpenPower 720 will ship September 24 with either 1.5GHz or 1.65GHz Power5 chips in a 4-way rack or tower option, with 64 gigabytes of memory. An advanced virtualization option adds another $2,000. The new server supports Novell's SuSe Linux Enterprise Server 9 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux Advanced Server 3.

Not to rest on its laurels, IBM will roll out a 2-way OpenPower system in the first half of 2005.

However, while Connors and Big Blue see explosive Linux growth on the horizon, some analysts aren't so sure.

In a recent report, The Yankee Group advised corporations to delay a Linux migration -- or any software migration -- until they can satisfactorily answer how it can deliver tangible technology benefits, better return on investment and improved total cost of ownership.

Report author Laura DiDio said that Unix and Windows are mature platforms that continue to evolve technically, making it fiscally unfeasible to replace Windows. Only 4 percent of Unix users and 10 percent of Windows users have any desire to switch platforms, she said.

"Our conversations with end users cemented the Yankee Group's belief that no operating system is right for everyone," said DiDio, Application Infrastructure & Software Platforms Senior Analyst. "Each company must... make a realistic assessment of their existing software operating system infrastructure."