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IBM's Virtual Server Service isn't just for mainframe customers anymore.

IBM has decided to make the hosting service available on its entire line of servers, including RISC- and Intel-based systems. Unlike its standard hosting offering, the Virtual Server Service lets customers pay for processing power and bandwidth on a fluid, as needed basis. This is a program IBM has been offering on its mainframe ZSeries line via Linux virtual servers since July of last year.

As the biggest one-stop server shop around, IBM is proud of its ability to offer virtual servers on various platforms. Be it Unix, Windows or Linux or RISC or Intel, IBM will carve up some big iron and run your apps. IBM claims that its hosting services can save customers 15 to 30 percent over doing things in-house.

IBM assures customers that its "security-enhanced" hosting setup offers more than enough protection to share a server safely with others. Most enterprise users, however, tend to like very large barricades between their servers and those of other companies.

The pricing does appear simple, especially for anything involving IBM's services organization. Big Blue will charge a one-time setup fee and send a bill each month based on how much compute capacity is used up. If you're a retailer, for example, the hosting bills will likely surge during the holiday season but then flatten out during slow months.

On its xSeries Intel and AMD-based servers, IBM has partnered with virtual machine specialist VMware to carve up the boxes into different partitions. For higher end kit such as IBM's iSeries and pSeries servers, much of the partitioning work is done with IBM's own technology.

Overall, the Virtual Server Services fits in with IBM's On-Demand computing strategy. Like HP and Sun Microsystems, IBM hopes one day to sell customers computing power on a utility-like pricing model. While some customers are dabbling with this concept today, it will take years for the idea to catch on en masse. ®

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