Unisys takes high and middle roads with new ES7000s
Twin product streams
Unisys, which was the only major server vendor offering servers based on processors from Intel Corp that scaled up to 16 or 32 processors, is starting to see competition from IBM Corp with its four-way xSeries 360 and 8-way xSeries 440 servers, which will soon scale to up to 16 processors. These IBM machines, which all employ the "Summit" EXA chipset, are designed to compete against the entry ES7000 servers from Unisys, and IBM even took potshots at Unisys in the Summit launch to prove that this is one of the real marketing targets of the Summit machines.
Unisys is probably also concerned with any vendor - such as Hewlett Packard Co, Dell Computer Corp, Bull, Fujitsu Siemens Computers, or NEC Corp - that has plans to roll out big midrange and entry Wintel and Lintel servers that will not only compete against Unix servers in the same power class, but also the ES7000s. You might think that Unisys would be particularly concerned about Intel's plans to foster big midrange and small enterprise servers using its E8870 (formerly known as the i870) among its competition, which is a reasonable thing to surmise. And this is why Unisys has beaten its competition to the punch by endorsing the E8870 chipset within the ES7000 and spawning a whole new 8-way and 16-way product line that can be upgraded into the full blown ES7000 servers, which can scale up to 32 processors in a single system image and which may eventually scale even further.
Unisys is now selling two classes of ES7000s. The "Orion" servers are based on the Unisys Cellular MultiProcessor (CMP) chipset created by Unisys. CMP is a derivative of technologies employed in the company's mainframes, and it allows four-way server boards using Pentium III Xeon, Pentium 4 Xeon, and Itanium processors to be connected together to offer from 8 to 32 processor configurations with a single system image. The CMP architecture also allows for partitions to be created for each server board, or spanning multiple server boards. Unisys supports Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000 Advanced Server and Datacenter Server, and the beta releases of Windows .NET Server on these machines as the host environment or within individual partitions. The company also supports SCO's UnixWare and Caldera International's Open Unix 8 as the host environment or with partitions as well. These environments can be mixed and matched on a single machine.
The first Orion server was announced in mid-March as the ES7000/200, and because of Intel's delays with the Itanium 2 "McKinley" processors and E8870 chipset (we presume), Unisys held off on announcing all of these other machines that debuted yesterday and just went with the Orion machine that used its chipset and the then-new "Foster" Pentium 4 Xeon processors. The ES7000/200 includes 16MB of L4 cache per four-way cell using Pentium III Xeon processors, and 32MB of L4 cache for every four-way cell using Foster or Itanium processors. Main memory in the box scales up to 64GB using 2GB memory blocks, and the server has a sustained memory bandwidth of 20GB/sec. The ES7000/200 supports 96 PCI slots and has an aggregate sustained I/O bandwidth of 5GB/sec. The Orion ES7000/230 is tuned to support only the Xeon MP processors, and supports up to 32 processors, up to two partitions, up to 64GB of main memory, and up to 96 PCI slots. The Orion ES7000/130 is based on the E8870 chipset and supports one or two 16-way servers in a single frame; its base configuration is a single 16-way machine. The Orion servers in a workable configuration, including operating system, main memory, and disk storage, sells for between $140,000 and $700,000, according to Mark Feverston, vice president of enterprise server marketing at Unisys.
The Aries product line targets a lower price point, but it offers less scalability than the Orion line. The Aries ES7000/130 server supports up to 16 McKinley processors, up to 64GB of main memory, and up to 16 I/O slots. The Aries ES7000/230 server supports up to 16 Xeon MP processors, up to 32GB of main memory, and up to 48 I/O slots. Configured Aries machines range in price from $75,000 to $300,000, says Feverston.
Feverston says that the Aries machines are upgradeable to the Orion machines and that customers will not have to do a box swap to move between machines, even though they are based on different chipsets and different architectures. These servers will also support future "Gallatin" Xeon MP and "Madison" Itanium processors when they become available.
He also indicated that Unisys was exploring the option of putting a 32-way Orion using 32-bit Intel chips under the same server skins alongside a dual 16-way IA-64 configuration to create a 64 processor enterprise server that could be administered as a single machine even if it did have three different system images. This capability could come later this year.