IBM Expands Software Pact with Intel, Microsoft

UPDATE: Big Blue continues its strong relationships with the chipmaker and software giant.
In what it sees as clamping the competitive vise on rivals Dell and HP, Armonk, N.Y.'s IBM said Thursday it is working with Intel and Microsoft to create more powerful Intel Xeon processor MP- and Windows-based software for the enterprise.

An IBM spokesperson said the three firms are working with systems integrators and software vendors to provide customers software running on the IBM eServer x440 system to power heavy e-business workloads. The trio hopes to lead the way over rivals Dell and HP in providing high-end, Intel-based servers that will allow customers to combine server hardware, operating systems, software applications and middleware with systems integration, marketing and sales support.

"Since we introduced the x440 last spring, we've shipped thousands of 8-way Intel Xeon processor MP-based systems. Dell and HP have shipped zero." IBM spokesperson Willow Christie told "HP and especially Dell will be hard pressed to match IBM's strategy of scalable, building block technology, combined with integrated, enterprise-ready applications from the top players in the industry."

While Dell was unavailable for comment as of press time, HP dismissed the news as an attempt by IBM to hide the fact that "the No. 2 player in 8-way servers is far behind."

"We don't think there is much of a market for greater than 8-way servers based on 32-bit architecture," said Steve Cumings, group manager of the platform division for HP Industry Standard Servers. Cumings cited limitations in memory scalability in 32-bit architectures as one of HP's reasons for not embracing this configuration.

"We think Foster MP was great for the 4-way," Cumings explained. "But Gallatin will provide higher quantities of cache and performance."

Brad Day, senior analyst for Giga Information Group, said the sniping is part of the firms' different strategies.

"I think HP decided to wait for Gallatin because they polled their customers and found that they weren't willing to upgrade unless there was about a 25 percent increase in performance," Day said. "They decided Foster [MP] couldn't do that. IBM wanted to get the jump on HP."

Day said that customers are looking for a couple things as the bottom line as far as these systems go.

"One is to maintain stronger performance linearity on applications moving forward," Day said. "Another is that customers want to buy an architecture that will have some life, one that will manage heavy workloads cost-effectively."

According to figures from research firm Gartner Dataquest, economic times are still having an effect on the server industry as worldwide server shipments totaled 1.08 million in the second quarter of 2002, an increase of 0.5 percent over the second quarter of 2001.

During that period, however, HP and Dell boasted the most units shipped worldwide. Gartner said HP, through its merger with Compaq, had 30 percent of the market share, with Dell and IBM at 18 percent and 14.5 percent, respectively. In the U.S., the figures were 26.8 percent for HP, 24 percent for Dell and 12 percent for Big Blue.

Unveiled last March and upgraded this past August, IBM's eServer x440 is positioned as a "game-changing" data center server that allows businesses to select two- or four-processor configurations and then upgrade later to eight or 16 processors, all part of the firm's pay-as-you-grow strategy. The x440 currently supports Microsoft Windows 2000 Server, Advanced Server and Datacenter Server, and will support the upcoming Windows .NET Server family in 2003.

To accompany the new software play, IBM unveiled a lab in which customers and software vendors may work on their applications, testing the Windows Server products on the eServer x440. The lab is located in Kirkland, Wash., not far from Microsoft's hometown of Redmond.

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