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Unisys Rolls Out Second High-end Server

Unisys Corp. refreshed its high-end "Wintel mainframe" with a new model on Tuesday for the first time since launching the 32-processor server in 1999.

Unisys calls its new model the ES7000/200. The ES7000/200 overhaul adds support for the new microarchitecture of the "Foster" or Intel Xeon MP chips Intel released on Tuesday and enhances system self-management and self-healing through a suite of technologies called Server Sentinel. The systems will be available in configurations of up to 32 processors next month.

The company's original model, based on Unisys' own Cellular Multi-Processing (CMP) architecture, is called the ES7000. With its 1999 release, that server combined with Microsoft's Windows 2000 Datacenter Server heralded the arrival of Windows servers as an option for large-scale, glasshouse applications.

Technologically, Unisys and Microsoft have proven the systems very capable on SAP and TPC benchmarks. But customer adoption has been slower than Unisys hoped. Promising, and much-ballyhooed, OEM deals for Compaq, HP and Dell to resell the systems under their own brands all fell through.

More than two years after it was introduced, the ES7000 line remains the only server capable of running Windows on more than eight Intel processors.

Mark Feverston, vice president of Unisys Server Programs, predicts that the Intel Xeon MP processors will deliver about a 20 percent performance improvement to most commercial application customers.

"We will not have a price increase. You have a 20 percent price-performance improvement," Feverston says. The ES7000/200 will cost $100,000-$1 million depending on configuration.

Unisys' pricing decision parallels what Intel did with the Intel Xeon MP. From the Pentium III Xeon to the Intel Xeon MP, Intel boosted the frequency by 78 percent, quadrupled the front-side bus, added a new level of cache and introduced Hyper-Threading technology. Yet, the chipmaker chose to charge the same for the new Xeon MP as it used to charge for the PIII Xeon.

Unisys also faces its first competition in the large Intel server space from IBM Corp., which plans to release a 16-processor server this year that it will position as having a lower entry cost than the Unisys systems.

The new ES7000/200 is more of an incremental improvement than a new generation of CMP server. According to a roadmap Unisys discussed with ENT last summer, Unisys will introduce a new version of its CMP server to coincide with Intel's McKinley processor later this year. McKinley is Intel's second-generation 64-bit processor. That second-generation CMP system will start at 16 processors and eventually scale to 128 processors. Like the ES7000 and ES7000/200, the second-generation system will support both 32-bit and 64-bit processors.

While the prices for new ES7000/200s match ES7000 prices, customers will pay an undisclosed amount to upgrade from an ES7000 to ES7000/200. "It's not significant, but there is a charge," Feverston says.

The upgrade includes minor changes to circuitry to accommodate the Intel Xeon MP's NetBurst microarchitecture, which is substantially different from its Pentium III Xeon predecessors. It also involves installing new hardware to enable the Server Sentinel management technologies.

Unisys positions its Server Sentinel technology as a current alternative to the future promises of IBM's eLiza initiative. Both companies position their self-management technologies as a descendant of their large-scale mainframe system heritage.

The Unisys Server Sentinel offers a consolidated view of all ES7000 components, which is substantial given the system's 96 I/O ports, 32 processors, cooling fans and capacity to be divided into up to eight partitions -- all with separate operating systems. Server Sentinel features reporting tools, a Web-based interface, scripts for automating recovery in advance of failures and automation tools for unattended operations.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.