IBM is to introduce the first of a range of low-cost Linux-only servers based on its 64-bit Power 5 chip in a bid to attack the low-end Sun Microsystems and HP Unix user bases.
The four-way IBM eServer OpenPower 720, due to start shipping on 24 September, will be sold using an 'open distribution' model meaning that resellers need no IBM authorisation to obtain systems from distributors.
"[OpenPower] is a new brand to introduce into the marketplace," Rohan Fernando, IBM's EMEA product and strategy manager, told vnunet.com.
"The IBM pSeries was designed for multiple operating systems including Linux, but Linux-only means higher performance."
Optional virtualisation software allows micro-partitioning of up to 10 applications per processor and provides reliability, availability and scalability features to match Unix capabilities. This will be available within 60 days of shipment, according to Fernando.
But Martin Hingley, vice president of the European systems group at analyst IDC, predicted that IBM would find it hard to gain new users, despite Power PC gaining adoption in games machines and embedded systems.
"IBM has not grown as strongly as HP in the low-end Intel market except in its traditional user base. I [also] do not expect a mass exodus from Sun. Users wanting to move to Linux no longer have to leave Sun," he said.
The rack or tower format 720 will use 1.5GHz or 1.65GHz processors and run either Red Hat or SuSE Linux. Linux applications will be binary compatible with those running on IBM pSeries.
Fernando said that, while this clock speed did not match Intel's, the "real test is running the same application, if it can deliver better performance. We believe it can."
The system will be priced from $5,000 in the US with a three-year warranty. European prices are not yet available. The option for advanced virtualisation is an extra $2,000.
IBM intends to introduce a two-way system in the first half of 2005.
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