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IBM to Notch Unix Server Milestone

As part of its Unix server market strategy, IBM is expected to announce a major milestone in computing for its new Unix-based Power5 systems, internetnews.com has learned.

A source familiar with the plans said Adalio Sanchez, general manager for IBM eServer pSeries in IBM Systems Group, will preside over a global teleconference Thursday.

Sanchez is charged with improving the company's position in the $21 billion Unix server market. The executive is likely to discuss new advancements in the company's Power5 (p5) server line, specifically progress concerning price-to-performance ratios.

IBM refused to comment.

The latest developments come about a month after IBM rolled out the eServer p5 595 and eServer i5 595 64-way servers, as well as a smaller 32-way p5 590 server. These systems came with the promise of unparalleled price-to-performance ratios compared to the previous Power4-based p690.

At the time, IBM said its eight-way p5 590 would start at $745,000, while the machine it is geared to replace, the p690, currently sells for $1.36 million.

Sliding up in scale, the standard 16-way, 1.65 gigahertz version of p5 595 would start at $904,000, while the 1.9 Ghz version starts at $1.2 million. The 64-way would come in at $3.2 million in the 1.65 Ghz or $4.1 million in the 1.9 Ghz version.

The latest developments could signal that IBM made even more performance gains and decided to make the cost of the new systems even lower.

Sanchez alluded to the progress in an October letter that appeared in IBM's eServer magazine.

"IBM is achieving new milestones for client value through unprecedented performance and price/performance, which will aid in reducing costs and improving enterprise efficiency," Sanchez wrote.

IBM introduced its ballyhooed p5 systems in July, with promises to accelerate the server line's development over the next year. Last week, IBM unveiled the new p575 machine, which can be clustered to run complex supercomputing applications.

Analysts believe IBM's aggressive p5 push will help catapult the Armonk, N.Y., company to the top of the Unix heap, which IDC claims is worth $21 billion.

Just four years ago, Big Blue garnered a 15 percent share of the Unix market, compared to 30 percent each by HP and Sun, according to IDC. The turnaround began in 2001 when IBM released its Power4 line and began steadily chipping away at its rivals' ownership.

Thanks to the success of the Power4 systems, IBM currently holds a 25 percent share, IDC said. It hopes to expand that considerably with the Power5 line.

The Power5 chip is a radically altered architecture, authored by IBM Fellow Ravi Arimilli, that provides more bang for the buck with its server virtualization capabilities.

IBM employs simultaneous multi-threading (SMT) to make one processor operate like two. This allows a Power5 processor to run two applications at the same time, offering great functionality and flexibility at lower cost for customers.

But the Virtualization Engine is the hub of the p5 systems' computing capabilities. The software allows users to run as many as 10 virtual machines on one processor to get more than the average 15 to 20 percent utilization rate typical in Unix server farms.

Virtualization is one of several springboards IBM is using to provide an on-demand computing infrastructure for customers who need to simplify the operation of their data centers and cut costs. Under this value proposition, IBM believes it can grow its Unix market share considerably over the next few years.