IBM Looks to Bring Power of Virtualization to SMBs

By Dan Muse
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Virtualization — a technology that lets one physical server function as several virtual ones — is hot stuff these days thanks largely to VMware's success and anticipation for Microsoft's Hyper-V. However, you could say that IBM was doing virtualization when virtualization wasn't cool.

Big Blue's roots in virtualization go back to 1967 when IBM developed a hypervisor that allowed mainframe systems to run virtual machines.

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Yesterday IBM focused on much smaller systems than mainframes when it announced PowerVM Express, which is software designed to help smaller businesses tap the potential money-, power- and time-savings virtualization technology promises.

"In uncertain economic times, it's even more important for customers to reduce costs," Scott Handy, vice president of worldwide marketing and strategy for IBM Power Systems," said during a conference call with the press yesterday. "Energy is a hot topic."

While virtualization technology is new to the Express line, the technology itself has been a part of IBM's Advanced Power Virtualization platform for higher-end systems.

IBM System P 520 Express
IBM System P 520 Express

The entry-level PowerVM Express is designed to allow customers to create up to three server images (or partitions) on one physical server. The cost is $40 per core (i.e, running PowerVM Express on a 2-core Power6 processor-based server would cost $80). PowerVM Standard supports up to 10 virtual servers per core. And PowerVM Enterprise edition includes all the features of PowerVM Standard Edition plus Live Partition Mobility, which is designed to let Power6 processor-based servers to move the entire operating system and its workloads from one server to another while the systems are running.

The PowerVM technology is designed to give customers the capability to run Unix on Linux on IBM's Power processor family. It also now allows you to run Linux x86 binary applications unmodified without recompilation.

IBM also announced new servers that are well-suited to PowerVM Express virtualization technology. The System p 520 Express and the System p 550 Express feature the Power6 processor. The servers are available in entry rack-mount or tower configurations. According to Handy, the new servers and virtualization capabilities are designed to be an attractive migration option from competitive HP or Sun Unix systems or from Linux x86 servers.

The p520 Express features one, two or four core 4.2 GHz Power6 processors and up to 64 GB of memory. The p550 Express has a maximum of eight cores with either a 3.5 or 4.2 GHz Power6 processor and up to 256 GB of memory in a 4U configuration. Handy said IBM loaded up the p550 with memory because, "as you do server consolidation, it's not the CPU performance that's the limiting factor but the amount of memory they can put in it that's the bottleneck."

The entry-level p520 servers are targeted to compete with Sun and its Niagara 2 portfolio on the low end, according to IBM. Big Blue and its partners will include a rebate offer of up to $4,800 per server for 3.5 GHz models ($600 per core) and up to $9,600 per server for 4.2 GHz models ($1,200 per core) for competitive HP and Sun Unix. The offer is good in the U.S. throughout 2008, the company said.

IBM also announced the new BladeCenter JS22 Express blade server, which features two dual-core Power6 chips and the BladeCenter JS21 Express blade, which will now be supported in the BladeCenter S chassis. IBM said the BladeCenter JS22 Express is designed to run outside the data center and integrate common business applications such as antivirus/firewall, VoIP, e-mail, collaboration, back-up and recovery, and file and print applications.

Dan Muse is executive editor of internet.com's Small Business Channel, EarthWeb's Networking Channel and ServerWatch.

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This article was originally published on January 30, 2008
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