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server market hots up
world may be on the brink of war, but on the Unix server front,
it's a battle of different sorts. Server vendors strive to
capture more market share by launching new hi-tech servers.
The emphasis is on single boxes, packed with processors and
mainframe attributes. by Brian Pereira
giants go to battle, the rest of us run for cover and watch
from afar. Well, something similar is happening in the Unix
midrange server space worldwide, and the action has shifted
to Indian shores. With Compaq and HP waiting for their merger
to be completed, the clash is now mainly between IBM and Sun
both of which are aggressively pursuing the Unix market. Incidentally,
both Sun and IBM are eyeing each other's customer base. They
both offer tools that help customers migrate between platforms
Solaris to AIX and vice-versa. But amidst the duelling ad
campaigns and marketing gibe, one thing's for certain the
Unix market is picking up once again.
believe Unix will remain the platform of choice for mission
critical enterprise scale applications," said Rajnish
Arora, Research Manager-Servers & Workstations, IDC Asia
Pacific. "We don't see a major shift away from Unix at
least in the next four to five years."
According to IDC, the Unix server market in 2000 accounted
for $29 billion of the $60 billion server market.
Besides the Unix stronghold there are other reasons why server
vendors are now focusing on the mid-range and high-end markets
both being the fastest growing server segments.
The trend in enterprises is to move from a roomful of single
servers to a single powerful machine (usually a midrange or
Joel Tendler, Program Director-Technology Assessment, Enterprise
Systems Group, IBM, says a single machine is easier to manage
and makes for lower Total Cost of Ownership. "It becomes
a lot easier now because I am able to take multiple boxes
and manage them in one place. That adds value to the customer
not just in terms of flexibility but also in terms of TCO.
But it's not just the box it's the management of the box,
the reliability of the box."
Server vendors are also putting mainframe attributes in their
midrange systems. This includes partitioning (a feature that
logically or physically segregates CPUs, memory and other
internal components into separate subsystems), high-speed
switches (cross-bar interconnects) between CPUs and memory,
manageability features, redundancy of critical components,
IBM for example, recently launched its pSeries 690 server
(earlier code-named Regatta). This midrange Unix server has
features borrowed from its zSeries mainframe class servers
such as self-healing architecture, virtualization, high-speed
switches, and Ultra-dense building blocks (see 'Regatta puts
IBM back in the race').
Even vendors like Sun, who once thrived by selling server
boxes to the Internet companies are now looking at a single
box that competes with mainframe systems. Sun launched its
Sun Fire 15K Solaris server on September 25. Sun Fire (code-named
Starcat) is a midrange Unix (Solaris) server that can scale
to 106 processors in a single frame, has a terabyte of memory
and can attach up to five petabytes of external storage. It
is also easier to manage and maintain.
The Sun Fire includes a Sun Fireplane triple cross-bar interconnect
(a high-speed switch between processors and shared memory).
The server also allows users to run multiple workloads because
it has a partitioning feature that Sun calls "Dynamic
System Domains." According to Sun, users can arrange
Hewlett-Packard also launched its midrange Unix server in
September. The rp8400 server uses fewer processors and is
available in rack chassis or standalone chassis. The server
runs the HP-UX 11i operating system and comes with 16 PA-8700
SGI surprised the industry by launching its SGI Origin 300
midrange server in early October. The Origin 300 comes in
a rack mountable chassis with two, four or eight 64-bit MIPS
processors and at least 512 MB memory. In future it will scale
up to 32-processors with 32 GB memory.
Sun is the leading server vendor with over 60 percent
market share. But IBM has its strengths in mainframe technology
and it is now bringing proven technology to midrange servers.
That might be a threat to Sun (which is also strong in technology).
In the coming months, vendors like IBM and HP are sure to
wrest market share away from Sun.
Meanwhile, let's look at what happened in the local market
According to IDC, at the broadest level, Servers can
be classified as SIAS and non-SIAS. SIAS (Standard Intel Architecture
Server) is a system designed and built around Intel or Intel-compatible
processors and running on a generic industry standard chipset.
These were earlier known as PC servers. Going by IDC definitions,
these systems are considered in the entry-level server class.
So the midrange and high-end segment includes only non-SIAS
According to IDC India figures for the Indian server market
(including SIAS servers), the midrange and high-end server
segments showed strong growth in 2000. Midrange servers had
a 21 percent share of the total server market in 2000, up
from 17 percent in 1999. High-end servers had six percent
share in 2000, up from four percent in 1999.
The Internet has been a key driver for this growth however;
the finance companies and stock exchanges are investing heavily
in non-SIAS servers.
and high-end servers are seeing good growth primarily because
customers are clearly looking at consolidation of their application
and computing resources," says Kamal Dutta, Country Business
Manager, Unix Servers & Solutions, HP India.
During 2000, Compaq Computer recorded the highest growth for
overall server sales in India (46 percent) followed by IBM
(44 percent), Sun (38 percent), HP (25 percent) and other
vendors (7 percent). IDC India also declared vendor market
share for non-SIAS servers in 2000 as: Sun 28.5 percent, IBM
25.1 percent, HP 21.7 percent, Compaq 20.3 percent, other
vendors 4.4 percent.
For Operating Systems (OS), Unix continues to dominate (49
percent) followed by Windows NT (29 percent) again, these
are IDC India figures for 2000. But Linux is fast catching
up. A survey conducted by IDC India on 1,000 organizations
between Feb 2000 and March 2001, revealed that 33 percent
of these organizations had Linux installed on some systems
and 3.2 percent used Linux as the primary OS. This compares
with 7.3 percent (Linux installations) and 0.6 percent (primary
OS) for 1999 - 2000.
puts IBM back in the race
20 was a perfect day for sailing in southern Goa, and IBM
took to waters with the launch of its midrange Unix server
the eServer pSeries 690. Earlier code-named Regatta, the p690
server has "mainframe class attributes" and is designed
for consolidating smaller servers with diverse workloads,
and for running large single-system applications like Business
Intelligence. The highlight of this server is the new POWER4
According to Joel Tendler, Program Director-Technology Assessment,
Enterprise Systems Group, IBM, and one of the POWER4 architects,
the p690 is designed both for technical and commercial applications.
the commercial side, it can be used for Banking or Finance,
and Manufacturing. But I can also build a supercomputer by
connecting a series of such machines. Each processor is capable
of four floating-point operations in a cycle. That's over
a 166 gigaflops for a 32-way system. Take six of those systems
and I have a teraflop."
For high-performance computing it can be used in Universities,
for weather forecasting, and in the defense industry.
Analysts around the world say the p690 puts IBM at least a
year ahead of the competition, because of superior features
like eLiza self-healing technology, logical partitioning,
a high-speed switch, and Ultra-dense building blocks.
The system is being offered as an 8-, 16-, 24-, or 32-way
symmetric multiprocessor server (SMP).
The POWER4 processors are either 1.1 GHz (1100MHz) or 1.3
GHz. In future IBM will move to 1.5 GHz and 2 GHz speeds.
Interestingly, the POWER4 represents the first 'SMP-on-a-chip'
or 'Server on a chip' design for Unix servers. Each chip incorporates
two processors with a Level 2 cache. Advanced multichip module
(MCM) packaging places up to eight POWER4 processors onto
a package that can fit in the palm of the hand. This design
has been borrowed from the IBM zSeries mainframe class server.
Another feature borrowed from mainframes is logical partitioning.
The p690 can be divided into 16 logical partitions and these
can run the Linux and AIX operating systems simultaneously.
Pereira can be reached at email@example.com