IBM speeds up System i servers, plans OS overhaul

IBM plans to overhauls its i5/OS operating system next year, featuring new encryption, virtualization and Web services capabilities, while the System i server the operating system runs on will become twice as powerful with a new release in September.

I5/OS Version 6, to be released on an undetermined date in 2008, will feature encryption of data on disk drives and tape backups, virtualization allowing one i5/OS partition to host storage for another partition, tools for deployment and integration of Web services, and a Web application server to simplify deployment of Java applications.

The storage enhancement will make it easier and less expensive to create virtual-server partitions, which can number up to 160 on System i servers, IBM says. Previously, the operating system would not allow the sharing of hard drives across multiple partitions, forcing clients to set aside new storage.

IBM refers to i5/OS as an “integrated” operating system, because it includes database management, storage management, security and a Web application server, items that in other cases may have to be purchased separately, said Elaine Lennox, vice-president of marketing for System i. Next year’s operating-system upgrade will be better able to support mixed environments, including Unix and Windows operating systems.

In September of this year, IBM will release System i570 with POWER6, the first System i server to use a microprocessor which IBM says doubles the speed of POWER5 and is the fastest microprocessor ever built. Like its predecessor, System i570 with POWER6 will be able to run up to 160 virtual-server partitions, but each partition will do a lot more work.

Previously known as AS/400, the System i servers are targeted at enterprises and are midrange products with features in between mainframes and PC-based servers. HP and Sun are competitors in the market for midrange servers, often defined as those costing between US$100,000 and US$1 million. System i570 will be available starting at US$165,000, a price that includes the current version of the i5/OS operating system, IBM says. The pricing structure for the 2008 release of i5/OS will have increased flexibility allowing clients to choose features.

“What large clients told us is they wanted to only pay for functions they needed,” Lennox said.

Earlier this month, IBM merged its high-end System i products and System p to create a new business unit focusing on the specific needs of large companies.

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