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Unisys Unveils 32-way ‘Intel Mainframe’

NEW YORK -- Unisys Corp. unveiled what it calls an "Intel mainframe," a 32-processor server that represents an opportunity for Microsoft Corp. to get customers onto Windows 2000 Datacenter Server in greater than 8-way configurations.

The formal name of the Unisys server is the e-@ction Enterprise Server ES7000. Unisys made the announcement today in New York in the context of a company-wide realignment around e-business. The company had created, redirected, or rebranded about 60 service offerings under the e-@ction name.

George Gazerwitz, president of Unisys Computer Systems, said in an interview that the system would support 16-way implementations of Windows 2000 Datacenter Server when Microsoft ships its top-of-the-line version of Windows 2000.

Unisys would work to support Windows 2000 Datacenter Server with all 32 processors sometime around the end of the second quarter, Gazerwitz said. The statement fits Microsoft’s projections last year that Windows 2000 Datacenter Server would scale to 32 processors in OEM packages.

Unisys’ emphasis, though, is on the partitioning capability of its new servers. The server is based on the Blue Bell, Pa.-based company’s own cellular multiprocessing (CMP) architecture, developed out of Unisys’ mainframe experience.

The system is designed to allow different operating systems, Intel processor speeds and even Intel processor types. Unisys designed the system for Intel’s 64-bit Itanium chip, which Intel is scheduled to deliver next year. When the ES7000 comes out, users will be able to have some partitions within the ES7000 running on 32-bit Intel processors and other partitions running on 64-bit Intel chips. The system supports up to eight partitions.

A demonstration showed an ES7000 with both Windows NT and Unixware partitions. Unisys employees pulled out one of the hot-pluggable, modular units with four 32-bit processors in it, and replaced the unit with four 64-bit processors while the rest of the system continued to run.

Jeff Raikes, group vice president for Microsoft worldwide sales and support, called CMP an "incredible architecture." He took a subtle detour from the Unisys marketing script during remarks at the presentation, though, repeatedly calling the ES7000 a "Wintel mainframe" rather than an "Intel mainframe."

The pending release of Intel’s Itanium chip and Microsoft’s Datacenter Server mean that for the ES7000, "the timing is perfect," Gazerwitz claimed.

Unisys is taking orders for the systems now. The company expects limited deliveries in Q1 2000 with volume shipments beginning in Q2 2000. Customers will be able to deploy Windows NT Server 4.0 and other Intel-based operating systems on the system prior to Datacenter Server availability. Microsoft has said its Datacenter Server will ship 3-4 months after the other versions of Windows 2000, putting it somewhere in the May/June 2000 time frame.

Unisys says pricing of the ES7000 systems starts at less than $100,000.

Among the many uses Unisys executives suggest for the ES7000 is as a migration path to Windows 2000 Datacenter Server. One partition could be used for a production system while testing is conducted on a Windows 2000 Datacenter Server system, under the scenario.

Sam Samman, a Unisys senior executive heavily involved with CMP, dismissed eight-way Windows NT/Intel systems as competitors for the ES7000, instead targeting Sun Microsystems Co.’s 64-processor, 64-bit systems.

"No longer is the Sun E10000 the leader in e-commerce applications," Samman contended.

Unisys and Microsoft also jointly announced a development agreement to work on embedding dynamic partitioning capabilities within Datacenter Server. The utility would give the system flexibility to provide processing power to partitions within the system that need it the most, says Gazerwitz. Current partitioning capabilities within the ES7000 are static. The companies expect the initial design phase to take six months. -- Scott Bekker

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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