Next Stop For IBM's Express Servers: SMBs

Tuesday Sep 27th 2005 by Clint Boulton
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Big Blue builds three new machines designed for small businesses, looking to attract new customers with a low cost.

Making good on its promise to flesh out its Intel-based server line, IBM introduced the first member of what will be a family of low-priced servers for small- and medium-sized business.

The IBM xSeries 100 server is a one-way, dual-core machine that sports some enterprise-grade capabilities, such as being able to manage and protect inventory records and e-mail applications. The machine also performs basic server functions such as file and print serving or powering a Web site, said Stuart McRae, worldwide marketing manager for IBM xSeries systems.

While the machine does some fairly complex jobs for businesses ranging from five to 100 employees, its starting price is on par with the cost of a personal computer: $599, a price point some 30 percent to 40 percent lower than comparable machines from rivals.

"This is the first platform we've ever developed for small business and to hit that entry price point that's important as we push our small business strategy into developing countries and markets," McRae said. "This includes lots of small businesses in India and China, where there is significant growth potential."

The machine is part of the IBM Express portfolio, the Armonk, N.Y., company's push to meet the needs of small and medium-sized companies or startups.

Aiming products at corporations or firms with leaner budgets is nothing new. Systems vendors such as IBM, HP and Dell are trying to outdo each other by offering machines with a lot of functionality at a lower cost.

IBM would seem to have the upper hand in some ways. It has vaults of intellectual property from which it may draw to craft jazzy machines or software at low overhead.

For example, McRae said Big Blue has also finished two more machines for the SMB Express line, with more advanced capabilities than the x100.

The x206m and x306m were built on IBM's Xtended Design Architecture (XDA), squeezing the computational powers of the mainframe into a smaller form factor.

XDA options include a choice of basic or complex hot swap hard drives, which allow administrators to pull out failed drives and replace them without turning off the machine. XDA also provides redundant server power supply options and a new management controller for remote server control from anywhere on the network.

SMBs with distributed computing systems, such as retail environments who require greater levels of availability and performance can pick the new x206m. The x206m will be available in mid-October, starting at $699.

Customers who need to power data centers, harness Web traffic and manage network gear may select the big brother x306m, starting at $1,089 in the U.S.

Separately, IBM announced new low- and high-performance Power microprocessor that scale from consumer products to high-performance computing.

The PowerPC 405 and PowerPC 440 chips are 90 nanometer ASIC cores for consumer, wireless, and embedded computing applications. The PowerPC 405 chip is suited for low-power applications such as consumer and wireless communications. The PowerPC 440 powers embedded computing, wired communications and storage.

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