Big Blue Rolls out Regatta

IBM Corp. introduced a new server last week thatfeatures two processors integrated into the same package. Big Blue believes theserver offers users an ideal combination of low price and high performance.

IBM’s eServer p690, which was code-named “Regatta,” isthe new flagship of the IBM Unix line. IBM hopes to compete with SunMicrosystems, Inc’s  “midframe” serverssuch as the Sun Fire 15,000. “We think we’re on a price/performance curve thatwill keep us ahead of the competitors for the next three years,” says DanPowers, a vice president at IBM.

Regatta runs IBM’s AIX 5L Unix flavor and Linux. Theserver can be partitioned into as many as 16 paritions or virtual servers. Theserver must run at least one AIX partition, but Powers says IBM is working hardto allow an all-Linux Regatta setup. AIX 5L shares what IBM term an “affinity”with Linux, that is, it can run many of the same applications after arecompile.

Regatta’s biggest innovation is perhaps the “server-on-a-chip”packaging. Each cartridge contains two processors, memory bus, cache, and I/O,connecting it to the rest of the hardware. The machine treats each unit as aserver, and machines are built of “blocks,” consisting of four servers.Currently, the machine scales to a 16-way.

IBM has also added new reliability features to theRegatta such as redundant memory modules, and stability sensors that can tellwhen a component is about to fail. If the machine sense a part is going tofail, it can alert service personnel, and preemptively shut down a chip beforeit brings down the entire system. Powers says these technologies are comingfrom IBM’s mainframes: “We’ve had it this in the mainframe and the mainframe isthe best in the word at this stuff.”

Powers says that IBM’s recently announced Summitinitiative will bring these reliability technologies to IBM’s xSeriesIntel-based servers. He believes the first Summit products will arrive sometimenext year.

Regatta will start at $450,000 for an eight-way system,which IBM says is about half the price of an equivalent Sun Sun Fire system.