IBM Challenges Sun, HP with Entry-Level Linux Server

IBM is set to tackle the entry-level server market next month with the release of its two-way OpenPower 710.

The RISC-based open-source server is designed to compete head-to-head with Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems’ servers for Unix and Linux, but Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff told LinuxInsider that IBM’s product has a built-in advantage.

“What’s different about this server — and indeed the OpenPower line in general — is that IBM is taking on x86 price points with a RISC-based server line. And, in the case of POWER5, that means better than x86 performance and a very good, and cost-effective, server virtualization option,” he said. “By contrast, both HP and Sun largely depend on their x86 lines to attack entry-level price points.”

Better Performance

IBM claims that the performance of the OpenPower 710 two-way Linpack HPC beats both the HP Itanium 2 rx1620 and rx2620. Peak performance of the two-way SPECompM2001 beats the Sun Opteron V40z.

IBM is positioning the rack-mount system as a good choice for data center consolidation and enterprise-class scale-out growth. The OpenPower line, which IBM introduced in September with the four-way 720, runs Novell’s SuSE and Red Hat Linux distributions.

The company also announced that 250 more applications have been optimized to run on OpenPower. About 900 applications, including Sybase ASE, have been optimized for OpenPower, according to IBM.

“Applications are the challenge. IBM has certainly gotten a fair number on board, but there are certainly far, far more on x86-Linux,” Haff said.

Application Strategy Makes Sense

Big Blue’s announcement today included news of an optimized SAP solution with IBM DB2 and maxDB and IBM OpenPower Consolidation Express. Consolidation Express allows customers to combine separate Web, file and print, directory, firewall and e-mail servers onto one OpenPower 710.

Haff said he believes focusing on these applications is a smart strategy. “As a practical matter, however, IBM is initially targeting some specific areas such as SAP and file/print/Web which keeps the number of applications needed down,” he said.

The server, with 1.65 GHz Power5 microprocessors, will be available Feb. 18 at a starting price of US$3,449.

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