Unisys Announces Capacity on Demand—For Intel Servers

Unisys, creator of the first Intel “mainframe,” announced a capacity-on-demand service for the x86 and IA-64 set

Capacity-on-demand is old hat in the RISC/Unix space, but has been almost unheard of in the Intel server segment.

Thanks to Unisys Corp., that’s no longer the case. The same company that for several years has marketed what it calls an “Intel” mainframe—its ES7000 (Intel Xeon- and Itanium-based) and ClearPath (Itanium- and proprietary CMOS-based) systems—last week announced its Real Time Capacity series of servers.

Not surprisingly, Unisys’ RTC servers are based on the venerable ES7000, which turns six years old this year. Like the company’s vanilla ES7000 systems, the new RTC servers can support as many as 32 Xeon or Itanium 2 processors.

Unisys is letting customers choose from among three base packages: A four-way eight-way, and 12-way system, each with four additional locked processors. Unisys says it can also provide alternate RTC configurations, but anticipates these three models should address the needs of most customers.

"We allow the client, on his own, in a self-service manner, to go to his workstation, click an icon, and within 15 minutes he's up to capacity," says Mark Feverston, vice president of platforms for systems and technologies at Unisys. "We're trying to help him to get around the problem of having to buy all of his capacity that he's predicted to need over the next three or four years up front."

Unisys has provided capacity-on-demand in its ClearPath mainframe systems for several years now. As with ClearPath capacity on demand, RTC costs a premium (in this case, about 10 percent) over its vanilla ES7000 brethren.

Unisys appears to have learned a thing or two from its experience with ClearPath capacity on demand. Last year, the high-end computing and services giant announced a new capacity-on-demand service for ClearPath, called “Utilization Sentinel,” which was designed to support an improved “pay-as-you-go” computing model. Pay as you go, of course, is capacity on demand by another name: In either case, customers can dynamically allocate and de-allocate additional capacity as their business needs require.

In any event, Utilization Sentinel was developed in response to feedback from users who claimed that, in some cases, unlocking temporary capacity could cost more than a full system upgrade or capacity expansion. “If it costs me $300,000 to upgrade my computer to the next level, and it costs me $10,000 to use the peak load for one day, it would actually be more expensive for me to use the peak-load price because I would need that at least 12 or maybe 15 days a year,” explained Dan Fisher, executive vice-president and CTO with Community First Bankshares, a financial services company, in an interview last year.

With RTC, Unisys appears to have proactively taken such concerns into account. As a result, Unisys officials say, if customers eventually unlock the full capacity of these systems, they’ll end up paying no more than if they had purchased a fully outfitted system to start with. For example, a customer who upgrades an RTC four-way system to an eight-way configuration won’t end up paying any more—even with the original 10 percent premium factored in—than if they had purchased an eight-way server from the get-go.

As with Unisys’ ClearPath mainframe systems, RTC is an on-off capacity on-demand service, such that customers can temporarily unlock dormant capacity to handle seasonal (or unexpected) increases in demand.

This feature—sold in 15-day increments—comes at a price, however: One increment is one quarter of the cost of a permanent upgrade. The upside, however, is that Unisys will permanently unlock the extra processors once a customer uses temporary capacity four times.

ENT Editor-in-Chief Scott Bekker contributed to this report.

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About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.