IBM has launched the first server based on its Power 5 processor, which also incorporates its new virtualisation engine (VE) for mainframe-type management across processors and systems.
The company estimates that its eServer i5 will bring a 40 per cent price-performance boost over existing iSeries models using the Power chip.
The new system is the culmination of £280m of investment in the last two years in iSeries - successor to the AS/400 range - and the new i5/OS operating system that replaces OS/400.
"The [i5] value centres on being simple to manage, simple to operate and cost-effective to own for running multiple business applications," Ian Jarman, IBM eServer i5 product manager, told vnunet.com.
"Most important to this is the extension of the virtualisation capabilities."
For instance, the VE automates changes to logical partitions between jobs and the load balancing between them, reducing IT support staff time, he added.
Virtualisation also applies to the network and storage, and the mix of i5/OS, AIX 5L and Linux operating environments. Better system utilisation contributes to the increased performance.
Martin Hingley, IDC's European systems group vice president, said: "The big challenge to IBM is that users want these features to be heterogeneous across manufacturers."
IBM is likely to announce VE support for third-party servers this year. It is also expected to support storage systems from EMC, Hitachi Data Systems and Hewlett Packard, plus network equipment such as Cisco switches.
Hingley added that VE did not yet match IBM's zSeries full mainframe virtualisation capability, but was moving a mid-range system towards mainframe functionality.
Phil Payne, IBM analyst at Isham Research, said: "IBM always market-proves novelties at the bottom end as it has the smallest impact on its revenues. The company needs to familiarise itself with the technology and establish the skills."
Payne predicted that the VE and Power chip would spread across all IBM ranges - eventually even to the zSeries.
The server features two new on-demand features. But Payne said companies are generally not ready for on demand because it goes against annual budgeting and pushes invoicing authority from business to IT department.
The first two i5 models are the one/two-processor i5 520 for small businesses, to be sold entirely through the channel, and the two/four-way i5 570, which will expand to 16-way later in the year.
A fully configured entry-level i5 520 Express Edition system, costing £7,535, includes security and workload management tools, DB2 UDB database, WebSphere Application Server-Express and a transaction engine for e-business applications - but not the VE.
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