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Unisys scratches labels off Dell Nehalems

Reins in x64 hypervisor

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Struggling mainframe and x64 server maker Unisys today is revamping its ES line of x64 servers to include machines based on Intel's recently announced "Nehalem EP" Xeon 5500 series processors for two-socket machines.

The two rack machine, one blade server, and one tower box that Unisys is putting into the field appear to be re-badged machinery from Dell, but Unisys never confirms such things. They are all two-socket boxes that are based on Intel's "Tylersburg" 5520 chipset, just like everyone else's Xeon 5500 servers and workstations are, and they support the 60-watt, 80-watt, and 95-watt Xeon 5500 processors that Intel is offering to customers in speeds that range from 1.86 GHz (dual-core) to 2.93 GHz (four-core).

If you've been sleeping under a rock, the Nehalem EPs launched three weeks ago. None of the server makers are serious about the top-end W5580 part, mainly because it burns at 130 watts.

The Unisys ES3530 G1 is a 1U rack server that has a dozen DDR3 memory slots for a maximum of 96 GB using 8 GB DIMMs and room for six hot-plus 2.5-inch SAS or SATA drives in the usual capacities and speeds. Unisys is also supporting 25 GB and 50 GB solid state disks inside the machines as an option. The machine has the same disk controllers as Dell's PowerEdge R610 G11 server and looks just like it except the brand slapped on the outside. The ES3560R G1 is a 2U rack server that has up to 18 DDR3 slots and supports up to 144 GB of main memory, and supports six 3.5-inch SAS or SATA drives or eight 2.5-inch SAS or SATA drives as well as the 25 GB and 50 GB SSDs. This box looks like Dell's PowerEdge R710 G11 machine.

It appears that for the past year, Unisys has been reselling Dell's PowerEdge M1000e blade enclosure as the ES5000. The ES5300B blade server that plugs into this chassis supports the same dual-core and quad-core Nehalem EP chips as the rack servers, and it has a dozen memory slots for the maximum 96 GB of main memory once 8 GB DDR3 DIMMs start shipping in volume.

The blade has two embedded Gigabit Ethernet ports and two PCI-Express mezzanine cards that can support Fibre Channel cards running at 4 Gb/sec or 8 Gb/sec speeds or 10 Gigabit Ethernet NICs. The blade has room for two 2.5-inch disks (SAS, SATA, and SSD units can plug in). This blade appears to be the PowerEdge M610 half-height blade. Unisys is not, for some reason, re-badging the full-height M710 blade from Dell, at least not yet.

According to Rod Sapp, director of marketing for enterprise servers at Unisys, these three machines will be available from Unisys starting on April 28. The base ES3530 G1 will sell for $2,400, while a base ES5300B blade server will cost $12,500 (including the chassis).

It looks like Unisys will also resell Dell's Nehalem EP tower server, which is called the PowerEdge T610 by Dell and the 3560T by Unisys. This is a tower box that can be tipped on its side to be mounted in a rack, occupying 5U of rack space. Unisys did not provide the feeds and speeds for this tower machine, but it did say that it will start shipping on July 30. The Dell Nehalem EP tower supports up to 96 GB of main memory and has room for eight 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch disks. The base Dell T610, which is shipping now, sells for $4,433, and it is tough to believe the Unisys price will be much different when it ships.

What Unisys also wanted to talk about today was its support for the next generation vSphere server virtualization stack from VMware, which you can read about here. This is perfectly normal and to be expected, since VMware still pretty much owns server virtualization on x64 iron.

There was another option for virtualization due about now, a Unisys-created hypervisor that the company was talking about last fall. When Unisys and server development partner NEC had jointly launched their "Xeon Monster" server, based on Intel's "Dunnington" quad-core and hex-core Xeon 7400 processors, back in September 2008, the company said that it was working on its own hypervisor for x64 machines, and it was reasonable to conjecture that this hypervisor was based on the partitioning technologies that Unisys had long since created for its mainframes. At the time, Unisys said this hypervisor would come out in early 2009.

Today, Sapp confirmed that this x64 hypervisor is being scaled back to just run on ClearPath mainframes that use x64 processors. (The ClearPaths also support two variants of CMOS mainframe processors that in turn support MCP and OS2200 mainframe operating systems).

"For the Intel x64-based Unisys ES series of servers, we're focusing on providing VMware vSphere 4, Microsoft Hyper-V, and Citrix Xen," Sapp explained. "Those hypervisors provide the virtualization capabilities that x64 systems require. Plus, providing those widely used hypervisors enables Unisys to leverage their providers' R&D investments and focus on our own value-added enhancements to Unisys enterprise servers. Unisys intends to provide our own hypervisor capabilities - in the form of secure partitioning - for the ClearPath line of mainframes." ®

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