IBM Extends NUMA-Q to Smaller Customers

With 20 employees, Portland, Ore.-based doesn’t fit the standard profile of companies using a NUMA-Q system from the former Sequent Computer Systems, recently acquired by IBM Corp. ( is in the process of taking a new, heterogeneous IBM Netfinity/Windows NT and NUMA-Q/Unix system live to support its growing business. The company combines the shops and stores of a geographic community into an online shopping mall. So far is focused on communities in the Pacific Northwest and Canada.

Traditionally, Sequent peddled its high-end systems to customers like Boeing, Ford, Cisco, and Lucent. Those companies had the infrastructure to absorb the up front costs of NUMA-Q systems, which allow users to group multiple Intel processor-based, four-way machines together. NUMA-Q is similar to a cross between symmetric multiprocessing and massively parallel processing, using a single image of an operating system but running processes in parallel across many machines. IBM runs the former Sequent’s flavor of Unix on the machines.

"When we [Sequent] were an independent company we were offering NUMA-Q in all spaces. IBM has basically looked at NUMA-Q and realized that we have some real strengths for e-commerce," says Peter Loeb, manager of NUMA Center marketing.

Joseph DeVore, a senior developer for, explains the decision to use a NUMA-Q system: "NUMA-Q has the capacity to go to 64 processors. We took it because it’s expandable." Company officials hope to grow to about 150 employees by the middle of next year, and expand into dozens of cities. will run an Informix Corp. ( database on a single NUMA-Q quad for serving advertisements and setting up FTP accounts for its e-commerce software.

The company currently runs its business on a two-way Intel-based server running Windows NT that crashes "once a week, once every two weeks," DeVore says. While the Unix-based server gives database headroom because the company can add quads as needed, the Netfinity machine allows to maintain its current ColdFusion and Internet Information Server infrastructure.

"If you’re a small company or emerging Internet service provider or ASP, and you’re in the process of provisioning, you’ve got to keep your resources right- sized," IBM’s Loeb says. "You know you’re going to expand exponentially. One of the nice things about NUMA is you can keep adding a quad, adding a quad, adding a quad. In the meantime, you’re also deploying NT as a front end to really run the apps themselves."

IBM has not settled on pricing for its IBM NUMA-Q for small Internet startups or application service providers. "I know that we’re exploring a whole bunch of options," Loeb says.