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Unisys lights up Xeon-based mainframes

Secure partitions and integrated specialty engines

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The Libra 4100 mainframe has 24 cores across its four sockets, and half of these cores are dedicated to running the MCP operating system on up to six emulated MCP central processing modules. (Two cores per CPM.) The MCP half of the machine has 64 GB of mirrored physical memory (128 GB total), and the box has ten PCI-Express slots (four x8 and six x4 slots) for peripherals.

The full-bore emulated MCP engine performance on the Libra 4100 server is 300 MIPS, which compares quite favorably to the Libra 4000 it replaces, which had an emulated engine performance of 200 MIPS, and the single-image system capacity of the dozen cores on the MCP half of the Libra 4100 comes in at 1,750 MIPS, compared to 800 MIPS for the Libra 4000. That's a 50 per cent improvement in single-engine performance and more than a factor of two more of aggregate MIPS in the box. But just so you see how far Unisys has to go to get off its own CMOS engines, a Libra 700 engine that was announced a year and a half ago is rated at 550 MIPS and the system spans an aggregate of 5,700 MIPS running non-emulated MCP.

There's still a dozen Xeon X7542 processors still not accounted for yet, and these are used to run the specialty engine workloads that Unisys has been hosting on outboard servers. These remaining Xeon cores are carved up into three secure partitions, just like the MCP instance has running atop of the emulation firmware; two of these sPars run the JProcessor Java application server (an implementation of Red Hat's JBoss) and the Unisys ePortal, which is used to link COBOL applications to handhelds and iPads, among other things.

Unisys will eventually offer specialty engines that support cryptographic co-processing and IBM's WebSphere-MQ message queuing middleware, as it does on outboard specialty engines today. The sPar-based specialty engines link to the MCP partitions through the MCP memory queues, creating what amounts to a memory-speed virtual LAN link between the virtual boxes. All of the software for the specialty engines (including the stripped down Linux or Windows kernels) come preloaded and preconfigured on the boxes, and are updated through the MCP patching processes.

The Libra 4100 comes in two flavors. The Libra 4180 is the traditional mainframe that starts out at 50 MIPS of initial performance, while the Libra 4190 is the metered version with utility pricing that scales up and down each month based on usage, which starts out at a lower initial 30 MIPS. The initial price of the Libra 4190, is what most customers will go for, is $550,000.

On the OS 2200 front, the Dorado 4100s are also being launched today, but they will not get sPar capabilities for another 18 months or so because more work needs to be done on the emulated OS 2200 I/O subsystems within the sPars.

The underlying hardware is exactly the same, it is just that the dozen cores that would be allocated to sPars running JProcessor or ePortal specialty engines are dormant. The Dorado 4100 engines have an emulated engine speed of 225 MIPS, compared to 195 MIPS for the engines in the Dorado 4000s they replace (not much of a boost, to be honest), but the aggregate scalability is much better at 1,600 MIPS on the Dorado 4100 compared to 600 MIPS on the Dorado 4000. (But again, the big CMOS-based Dorado 700 has a single-engine speed of 525 MIPS running its OS 2200 workloads and an aggregate of 5,700 MIPS to stretch its COBOL legs out in.) These Dorado 4100 machines have two Dorado I/O expansion modules.

The Dorado 4180 can be set up with one or two OS 2200 partitions and can emulate up to ten OS 2200 instruction processors across those dozen cores it has access to. The machine has the same 64 GB of mirrored memory, sports up to 112 Dorado I/O ports, and comes in a base 50 MIPS configuration. The Dorado 4190 is the metered version of the box with utility pricing, and this metered version starts at $330,000 for a 30 MIPS machine. These two boxes will also come in special high availability configurations (dubbed the Dorado 4180-HA and Dorado 4190-HA) that allow a pair of machines to be linked together in a failover cluster. The Libra 4180-HA and Libra 4190-HA models will not be available until the second quarter of 2011.

Finally, there is a new puppy machine called the Dorado 4150, which is based on the same Xeon iron but which only offers two OS 2200 instruction processors and one Dorado I/O expansion module. Pricing and MIPS for this box was not available at press time.

All of the machines will begin shipping on October 29. ®

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