IBM Confirms Summit Will Ship Next Month

The market for large SMP servers based on Intel Corp. processors willgain a second competitor in early December when IBMCorp. begins shipping its "Summit" system in limited quantities,as reported on Monday.

The timing is based on the release of Intel's next generation ofmultiprocessing Xeon chips, code-named "Foster MP." A two-way versionof the Xeon, which features a 400-MHz front-side bus, has been out for severalmonths.

Intel is expected to release the Xeon MP in the first quarter of 2002,but IBM will be able to make some systems available in December under Intel'searly ship program.

The system, which IBM calls the eServer x360, ratchets up competition inthe market for Intel-based systems with more than eight processors -- a marketthat has been the exclusive domain of UnisysCorp. since late 1999.

It is built on what IBM calls its Enterprise X-Architecture, which wentby the code-name "Summit" when IBM began talking about the chipsetover the summer.

"We think we have a game-changing technology," says JayBretzmann, director of xSeries server marketing at IBM.

The servers will ship in four-processor blocks or bricks, which work asstandalone boxes. Up to four of the blocks can be connected through ahigh-speed scalability port, creating a 16-processor logical machine. The earlyversions that ship in December will only be available as four-ways. The 16-waycapability will follow the general availability of the Xeon MPs.

IBM is claiming industry firsts in stuffing the four processors into 3Uof rack space; and in providing a separate, rack-mountable I/O unit called theRXE100.

Unisys contends IBM is validating the market for larger, Intel-basedsystems. Unisys currently offers up to 32 processors in its ES7000 server andhas a roadmap to double, then quadruple, that capacity.

"We have been waiting for another major player in our market tohelp legitimize, add credibility to, and condition the market to mainframe-class Windows computing," says Pete Samson, vice president and generalmanager of Unisys technology sales development. "We've been like a voicein the wilderness. A lot of people have been equating [Windows] Datacenter[Server] with Unisys and not with Microsoft."

IBM is emphasizing a "pay-as-you-grow" feature of the servers.IBM says the approach limits any penalty customers pay to reserve headroom intraditional large systems, and IBM draws a direct comparison to Unisys there.Unisys' Samson says Unisys is preparing a pay-as-you-grow program for theES7000 that will be available around the same time as the IBM systems reachgreater-than-eight-way capability.

Similar to the Unisys ES7000, the IBM server will run either 32-bit or64-bit processors, although the choice must be made at the factory. Unisyssystems are designed to be field-upgradeable to 64-bit. The IBM server, againlike the ES7000, will also allow partitioning of the unit to run differentinstances of the operating system. – ChrisMcConnell and Scott Bekker