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IBM refreshes Power systems to keep Unix sales edge

James Niccolai, IDG News Service | April 12, 2011
IBM has updated its Power systems lineup with higher-density blades and faster processors for its mid-range Power 750 server, looking to keep its momentum in Unix sales as the market inches back to life.

IBM has updated its Power systems lineup with higher-density blades and faster processors for its mid-range Power 750 server, looking to keep its momentum in Unix sales as the market inches back to life.

IBM has been outselling both Oracle and Hewlett-Packard in the Unix market, helped by its introduction last year of the eight-core Power 7 processor, and by lingering doubts about the roadmaps of its two biggest rivals, said IDC analyst Jed Scaramella.

HP had to fend off more questions about the future of HP-UX last month, after Oracle joined Red Hat and Microsoft in saying it would stop developing new software for Intel's Itanium processor, on which HP's Unix servers are based.

HP assured its customers its roadmap for Itanium systems stretches out more than a decade, and said it would support its customers on existing Oracle releases throughout that time. But a glimmer of uncertainty can make buyers wary when it comes to decisions about high-end platforms.

"Whenever questions are raised and people are talking about business-critical applications, they tend to be very cautious," Scaramella said.

HP got something of a boost on Tuesday, however, when Intel announced in Beijing that its next Itanium processor, code-named Poulson, will ship next year and should double the performance of the current Itanium 9300.

Oracle has had challenges too. The company may finally have convinced customers that it is committed to developing Sun's Sparc-based systems, but it has also indicated that it has more interest in selling specialty, high-end systems than general purpose servers.

"That may have been a comment about x86 more than Sparc, but it put some questions in the market about Oracle's overall strategy," Scaramella said.

Those factors combined mean that most of the Unix-to-Unix conversions IDC has seen have been to IBM's AIX platform, he said. HP is faring better in the x86 market, Scaramella said, and overall its server business is strong.

That's not to say IBM's Unix business is booming; the Unix market as a whole is still coming back from the recession, and IDC predicts that sales will be down 1% this year compared to last, Scaramella said.

The Unix systems market was worth $3.8 billion in the fourth quarter, according to IDC. IBM took 53.8% of that, up from 48% in the same quarter a year earlier, Scaramella said. HP's share stayed roughly level at 23.3%, and Oracle's declined from 23% to 17.7%.

 

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