By Timothy Prickett Morgan Not wanting to upset current sales but wanting to create some excitement about its fall lineup of RS/6000 announcements, IBM Corp is starting to tell customers that not only will it be shipping the S80 Pulsar server some time in the fourth quarter, but that it will give customers who buy […]
By Timothy Prickett Morgan
Not wanting to upset current sales but wanting to create some excitement about its fall lineup of RS/6000 announcements, IBM Corp is starting to tell customers that not only will it be shipping the S80 Pulsar server some time in the fourth quarter, but that it will give customers who buy today’s S7A Blackbird servers special deals that will protect their investments.
In typical cryptic IBMese, the company confirmed to customers that it was indeed shipping follow-ons to the S70 and S7A that would have SMP configurations that ranged from 6 to 24 processors, with worldwide volume shipments including upgrades from existing Northstar processors in the fourth quarter. IBM also told customers that the transaction processing performance of the forthcoming Pulsar machines in a full configuration (64Gb of main memory and 24 processors) would be up to three times faster than a fully-configured S7A Northstar server. IBM still hasn’t said how high the clock speed will be on the Pulsar processor, which uses the company’s CMOS-7S copper chip fabrication process. Most people expect the chip to run at between 450MHz and 500MHz. Pulsar comes from the AS/400 design team also responsible for its predecessors, Apache and Northstar and are designed for commercial applications. The Power3 IBM uses in its workstations is designed for floating point and compute- intensive workloads.
Customers have also been informed by IBM that existing RS/6000 S7A servers will be able to be upgraded to Pulsar S80 models without having to change server serial numbers – an important feature for customers who don’t want to have to write off the remaining amount of value still on their depreciation schedules for their S7A machines, which will be only about a year old when the S80s start shipping. To help cushion the blow on upgrade costs, IBM is telling its Unix customers that those who upgrade from an S7A will get the value of the first 4-way processor block they bought on their S7A applied to the cost of the first six-way processor block they buy in an S80.
The wording in that deal suggests two things. First, it seems like the basic motherboard in IBM’s Pulsar RS/6000 and I-Star AS/400 servers will be a six-way unit, and that the machines will have four of these units meshed together to create a 24-way SMP box. The second hidden message in this statement is that the six- way Pulsar card will cost about the same as a current Northstar four-way card, or about $75,000. IBM is also telling customers who buy S7A memory today that they will get a 50% credit on the money they spend today that can be applied to the cost of upgrading memory when they move to the S80. That is just a convoluted way of implying that IBM will cut memory prices in half from the current $27 per Mb when it starts shipping the S80 and that it will give customers who buy S7A machines free memory upgrades if they spend their money today rather than waiting to the fourth quarter. Either way, IBM will get the same amount of dough. Unless, as IBM says in its disclaimer to customers, it changes its mind. And by the way, the wording in IBM’s statement of direction is so obscure that it is open to different kinds of interpretations.
Big Blue is telling RS/6000 customers that it will offer a rack-mounted follow-on to the H70 Northstar server sometime in 2000, and this will very likely be a Pulsar- based machine as well. IBM says that the follow-on to the H70 due next year – presumably the H80 – will also have serial number protection and offer online transaction processing performance that is 50% higher than the current H70, which has four 340MHz Northstar processors. IBM isn’t being specific about how it will accomplish this, but just switching to a 510MHz Pulsar processor would do the trick. So would using six of the existing 340MHz Northstar processors.
Rumor has it that sometime in 2000, IBM will announce even faster Pulsar processors, running at up to 800MHz and using copper and SOI chip processes, which it will drop in the S80 boxes. IBM is also rumored to be planning a line of midrange Pulsar machines with up to eight processors that will fill in the gap between the H80 and the S80 for sometime in 2000. Whether or not these machines use the slower or faster Pulsar processors is as yet unknown.