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IBM taunts Sun, HP and VMware with $40 PowerVM hypervisor

Slaps software on new Unix boxen

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IBM thinks it can slice the hell out of a server. In fact, it looks to use virtualization as a major weapon against Unix rivals Sun Microsystems and HP and against x86 vendors. Don't believe us? Then witness the PowerVM branding exercise.

IBM unfurled the PowerVM moniker in front of journalists today, as it announced new virtualization software aimed at small- to medium-sized business along with fresh Power6-based servers. Combined, this software and hardware gives IBM one of the more flexible server platforms going in the Unix realm. Even better from a volume standpoint, IBM's wares can compete against VMware and others on the x86 server virtualization front.

So, here's the deal.

Up to this point, IBM has offered something called Advanced Power Virtualization (APV) on its Unix gear. The Standard Edition APV was basically just IBM's hypervisor that has been available since 2004. When IBM's first Power6-based server arrived last year, an Enterprise Edition of APV appeared that facilitated the Live Partition Mobility technology, which lets customers move a running OS and applications between physical machines. IBM thinks APV is sweeter than Scarlett Johansson dipped in chocolate and pitches it as a major win against Sun and HP. Customers can use APV, among other things, to more or less avoid the old days of planned weekend downtime by applying patches and the like on-the-fly.

Now IBM has chucked out the APV name in favor of PowerVM. In addition, it's offering PowerVM in a lower-end Express configuration for SMBs. The optional software will cost just $40 per core (for three virtual servers) in the Express bundle, making it way cheaper than VMware's ESX Server package that can go for more than $2,000 per socket. VMware might argue that it includes more goodies with its ESX Infrastructure Suite package than IBM does with PowerVM, but you can take that up with the vendors or your spiritual leader.

The Standard flavor of PowerVM will run about $850 per core on midrange systems, while the Enterprise code, which includes the Live Partition Mobility, costs $1,500 per core.

But you still need to whip out your Bedazzler because there's more, more, more.

All of the PowerVM flavors will include PowerVM Lx86 at no additional charge. It slices; it dices; it turns carrots into Taj Mahal replicas with the flick of the wrist.

Sorry, no, PowerVM Lx86 was actually known before as System P Application Virtual Environment or PAVE. This is the code that IBM requested from Transitive to run Linux/x86 applications unmodified on Power systems.

Now any old IBM customer with 40 bones can run Linux apps on a fancy Power6 box and then virtualize the heck out of them.

If you're still not moved, then IBM has some hardware to throw at you.

Come Feb., customers can buy the new p 550 system with Power6 chips. This 4U box will support one to four processors and up to 256GB of memory. That's a ton of memory for a relatively small box, but IBM thinks the database hunger is out there to feed the beast.

In addition, IBM will ship the p 520 system, which is a 4U box as well available with one, two or four cores. We're guessing the one-core chip is a deflated Power6 with just one core activated.

IBM has yet to release more detailed specs on the hardware, but we'll bring them to you in Feb or sooner if you mail them in.

For those who give a hoot, IBM will ship a new version of the i5/OS operating system for System i boxes in March. IBM said the fresh OS will run on its Power6-based JS22 server.

Also, IBM will support AIX and Linux on the JS22 and JS21 Express blade servers plugging into its BladeCenter S chassis, which is targeted at SMBs.

IBM hopes all of this gear will help it apply more pressure on Sun and HP in the Unix game.

The company claims that customers have flocked to the rather limited Power6 options that have been available with IBM selling 4,100 midrange servers based on the chip. Around 40 per cent of those units were sold with the 4.7GHz version of Power6, while the rest went out with 4.2GHz and 3.5GHz chips. In addition, IBM has seen customers opt for its virtualization goodies on 70 per cent of the Power6-based systems sold - up from 40 per cent on older gear. ®

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