IBM Unveils Windows 2000 Optimized Four-Ways

IBM Corp. this month unveiled the first four-way servers billed by anyone as designed especially for Windows 2000.

The machines, the Netfinity 7100 and Netfinity 7600, incorporate a specific subset of IBM’s X-architecture features as standard in a four-way server for the first time, according to Tom Bradicich, director of architecture and technology for IBM’s Netfinity server line.

"We have upped the feature list in very specific areas: performance, high-availability, and storage capacity," Bradicich says. "Now, when you look at Windows 2000 and the Netfinity 7600, not one of them is holding the other back."

IBM markets its X-architecture as being able to bring IBM mainframe features down to PC servers. Both new Netfinity servers come standard with a dedicated/integrated system management processor, light path diagnostics, and a redundant power fuel gauge.

The system management processor monitors system components and is programmed to predict failures and provide continuing management control of downed systems. Light path diagnostics project a beam of light within the server to a failed component to help a system manager quickly locate the problem. The power gauge alerts IT managers when extra system components are tapping into a failover power supply, creating a situation where a failed power supply can crash a system with a redundant power supply.

Netfinity 7600 systems also come with Chipkill memory -- IBM’s system for recovering from memory failures -- and Active PCI, which allows Netfinity servers to automatically recognize and configure new network cards or RAID adapters without a system shutdown. The features are options in the Netfinity 7100. The 7600 starts at about $10,000; the 7100 starts at about $7,000.

The servers each come in an 8U form factor with a 16 GB internal memory expansion, room for 10 internal hard drives, and ServeRAID 3HB controller cards.

While presenting the servers as designed for Windows 2000 may be a slight stretch, analyst Jonathan Eunice with Illuminata (www.illuminata.com) views the packaging of the new Netfinity servers as converging well with Windows 2000. "This is basically an availability-designed server and Windows 2000 is more of an availability-optimized operating system than NT was," he says.

IBM is also refreshing other servers in its Netfinity line. The two-way Netfinity 5600 now comes in 733-MHz and 800-MHz Pentium III versions. The two-processor, 1U Netfinity 4000R has been upgraded to 650-MHz and 750-MHz PIII processors.

A major part of IBM’s announcements include enhancements to the company’s storage offerings that complement Netfinity servers. The company added several Netfinity Fibre Channel products, including 9-, 18-, and 36-GB 10,000 RPM Fibre hard disk drives; Piano Fibre Channel external enclosure; Fibre Channel host bus adapter; Fibre Channel RAID storage subsystem; Fibre Channel optical cable; Fibre Channel host/drive interface; and Fibre Channel controller 256-MB cache upgrade. The company also introduced a 60/120 8mm Mammoth 2 tape drive and a six-cartridge DDS4 DAT autoloader.

In other news, IBM published numbers for the OLTP benchmark from the Transaction Processing Council (www.tpc.org), one of the key proving grounds for eight-way systems based on Intel Corp's (www.intel.com) Profusion chipset. Using a Netfinity 8500R with eight 550-MHz Pentium III processors and 4 GB of memory, IBM achieved 40,251.15 transactions per minute on the TPC-C benchmark (tpmC) at a cost of $18.98/tpmC.

IBM used Windows NT 4.0, Enterprise Edition, and SQL Server 7.0 Enterprise Edition. Other vendors including Unisys Corp., Compaq Computer Corp., and Dell Computer Corp. have come out with stronger results in either performance, price, or both. IBM submitted the results to the TPC without fanfare Feb. 25.