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NEC Raises Virtualization Banner

Computer systems manufacturer NEC announced a new four-way utility server designed to help CIOs with their consolidation issues, the company said Monday.

The NEC Express5800/340Hb FT is also one of several manufactures pledging support for the upcoming Microsoft Virtual Server 2005. NEC's base unit starts at $149,999 and comes standard with four Intel Xeon MP processors running at 2.8 gigahertz apiece with 2 gigabytes of memory, two 18GB HDDs (hard disk drive) and a choice of either Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition or Virtual Server.

The expandable mid-range server features a 10U rack-optimized form factor and uses blade server architecture by separating processing/memory and I/O onto separate modules and features hot-swappable functionality. "[We are] providing customers with the industry's most reliable and secure platform for server virtualization and consolidation available today," Larry Sheffield, NEC's senior vice president of the company's Solutions Platform Group in America, said in a statement.

NEC has got its work cut out for it, because at least a half dozen other server manufacturers are also targeting the need for so-called "fault tolerant" servers. The Rancho Cordova, Calif-based American version of Tokyo-based NEC must go head-to-head with computer-makers like IBM , HP , Fujitsu, and Sun Microsystems who are specialists at servers that promise 99.999 percent uptime. The competition has also had the added threat of developing their own versions of virtualization software.

NEC said it has a leg up on its rivals because it has a history (ala the Earth Simulator) of developing computers that just won't give up. The company said its new Express5800/340Hb FT also has an aversion to the traditional problems associated with traditional server architectures and cluster-based solutions.

"NEC is the only major enterprise manufacturer to offer a four-way high-availability server delivering up to 99.999 percent continuous availability, averaging less than five minutes of unplanned downtime per year," Sheffield said.

For example, Sheffield said pharmaceutical corporations could use the server's high-availability functionality to run uninterrupted molecular model tests for the development of new drugs, saving both time and resources. The server could also give retail corporations and e-commerce sites round-the-clock operations with full access to inventory and sales records, he said.

The company is also banking on IT decision-makers that want to plug Microsoft's server software in their systems.

"Virtual machine software is becoming a popular solution to help organizations maximize their current technology investments, consolidate servers and simplify management capabilities," David Hamilton, Microsoft director of the Windows and Enterprise Management Division.