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Power5 Revs IBM’s Linux-Only Server Line
By Jeffrey Burt


IBM will continue pushing its Linux on Power strategy Monday when it unveils a new line of Linux-only servers running on its 64-bit Power5 processor.

The Armonk, N.Y., company later this month will roll out the eServer OpenPower 720, an entry-level four-way server that can run Linux operating systems from both Red Hat Inc. and Novell Inc.’s SuSE unit. In the first half of 2005, IBM will roll out a two-way OpenPower system, according to Brian Connors, vice president of IBM’s Linux on Power group.

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PointerTo read eWEEK Labs’ review of Novell’s SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9, click here.

The new OpenPower systems will join the iSeries and pSeries server lines as systems that run on the Power architecture and can support Linux. IBM also offers the BladeCenter JS20, a blade server that runs on Power 970 processors, and its line of xSeries systems running on Intel Corp. processors also supports Linux. However, the new systems will be targeted at enterprises looking to migrate off of other Unix systems or Microsoft Corp.’s Windows NT onto the open-source operating system, Connors said.

“With OpenPower, we are offering a robust hardware architecture tuned around Linux,” Connors said.

IBM primarily is targeting the low-end Unix market, where systems go for less than $10,000. The Linux server space itself is about $4 billion, though great growth is expected, Connors said. The Unix market is about $20 billion, with the low-end part of that about $1.6 billion, he said. Sun Microsystems Inc. dominates that part of the industry, with about 48 percent market share, he said.

IBM is expecting that customers in that space are looking to migrate off of Sun’s Unix operating system—Solaris—and onto Linux, Connors said. Big Blue also is hoping to entice Hewlett-Packard Co.’s PA-RISC customers to make the move to Linux on Power. HP currently is standardizing its high-end server line on Intel’s 64-bit Itanium processor and is phasing out its PA-RISC architecture.

PointerFor more on IBM’s and HP’s Linux migration plans, click here.

Officials with Sun, of Santa Clara, Calif., called IBM’s Linux on Power strategy a proprietary play and said Sun offers Linux on its new line of servers powered by Advanced Micro Devices Inc.’s Opteron processors.

IBM’s p- and iSeries lines of servers have targeted customers in the midrange and high-end spaces, Connors said. The iSeries offers integrated packages of IBM hardware and software aimed at the midrange, while pSeries is popular among high-end users looking to consolidate systems within their data centers.

OpenPower will be for people who only want to run Linux and have no need for greater OS options. Both the i- and pSeries systems can run Linux and AIX, IBM’s Unix operating system. In addition, the iSeries can run i5/OS, the latest version of its AS/400 operating system.

IBM already has begun outfitting its p- and iSeries systems with Power5, which offers such features as sub-CPU partitioning.

While IBM has touted Linux for years, since late last year the company has begun an aggressive campaign to support the operating system on its Power architecture. In January, IBM created the Linux on Power group to promote the initiative. That group is responsible for its own profits and losses and has engineers dedicated to the task of improving Linux.

IBM also has created a Linux Technology Center, where hundreds of engineers are working on improving the operating system through enhancements to such technologies as device drivers and compilers.

IBM initially will offer the OpenPower 720 with Power5 chips running at either 1.5GHz or 1.65HGz. It will come with up to 64GB of memory and optional virtualization capabilities, and will be offered in either rack-optimized or tower configurations. The systems will begin shipping Sept. 24, starting at $4,999. The virtualization option will cost $2,000.

PointerCheck out eWEEK.com’s Linux & Open Source Center for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.

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