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IBM goes it alone for now

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Newisys Inc. is "the other company" betting its future on AMD's new Opteron chip and, as promised, the company unveiled its server on the big launch day.

The two-processor Newisys 2100 is the first server to roll out of the Austin-based company's doors. The system ships with two, hot-swap hard drives, dual embedded gigabit Ethernet ports, two PCI slots and a built-in service processor with its own 10/100 Ethernet connection.

As with any kit based on Opteron, users receive a combination 32-bit and 64-bit machine. Those who love and adore Pentiums and Xeons have a new choice in the 32-bit server processor market, while others willing to gamble on freshly recompiled code can pick up extra memory addressability with the 64-bit extensions.

There are no real surprises with the server, as Newisys has been showing demo models of the box for some time. There was, however, some disappointment felt when Newisys revealed its final list of OEMs planning to ship a 2100-based system.

For many months now, reporters have flirted with the idea that Newisys would have either IBM or Dell signed up on launch day. Former IBM executives fill the Newisys management ranks, and ex-Dell workers have flocked to the company as well. These ties helped foment the notion that this little company deep in the heart of Texas could tempt a big name to go the Opteron way.

Michael Dell put some of the speculation about his company's moves to rest, handing out an emphatic "No" to Newisys in an interview earlier this year. This left IBM as the big question.

Newisys executives would never confirm that a deal with IBM had been completed, but like any good start-up they supplied an endless stream of OEM innuendos. Their hints at a possible agreement made reporters froth at the mouth and swat speculation back and forth between themselves.

Well, here you have it. IBM plans to start selling an Opteron-based system in the second half of this year, but says it's making the servers on its own.

This should come as no great shock given IBM's penchant for controlling much of its server design.

IBM has a tense relationship with Intel over the Itanium 2 processor and is yet to ship a system based on the chip, which was announced last Summer.

Unlike Itanium, however, Opteron does not challenge IBM's Power RISC business. AMD bills Opteron as the Xeon killer, and IBM appreciates anything that keeps a little pressure on Intel.

Jack Steeg, a senior vice president at Newisys, said the company is still in talks with IBM and that it may yet have some surprises in store when Big Blue finally brings a system to market. Newisys has a 4 processor system coming later this year, which could tempt IBM.

In the meantime, Newisys is left with a host of smaller channel partners to ship its systems and package them with software. ®

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