When is a server not a server? When it hasn’t got a hard disk, according to IBM Corp. That’s why IBM officials have been getting upset at the rash of low-end, low-cost entry-level servers that have been coming out lately. Blood finally boiled over at IBM when Compaq Computer Corp’s advertisements for the Prosignia 200 began appearing. The new Prosignia 200 starts at an incredible 995 pounds gushes the UK version of the ads (in the US, the machines start from $1,600). with all the reliability and performance you’d expect from Compaq. But no hard disk. And with non-parity RAM rather than error-correcting ECC RAM, and EIDE disk controllers rather than SCSI, so they aren’t expandable. Selling a server without a disk, said one IBM spokesman, is like selling a car without wheels. The concern IBM has is that we believe Compaq is being irresponsible in misleading users that they can purchase a server for under 1,000 pounds, said the spokesman. And what is worse, says IBM, is that these machines are aimed at first time server buyers, who are less familiar with the problems they will face. Not only that, but the sales channels might not be able to handle the additional support load that results for using machines not up to the job. Compaq responds to all this by saying that it offers ECC memory, SCSI, – and disks – on its higher-end servers, but that it’s normal to have a Model 1 for those want to add their own low-cost disks and network card, and IBM itself does the same with its PC Server 310, albeit for a higher price in the UK – currently 1,780 pounds. Compaq says IBM is just peeved that Compaq has found a new price point which it can’t match, and that IBM hasn’t noticed that there plenty of users out there who are already making use of ordinary PCs as servers, because they can’t afford the alternative. And it says that, at street prices, it’s still possible to get a Prosignia 200 for under 1,000 pounds, disk and all. IBM, however, says it plans, within the May time frame, to equip even its lowest-end product lines with the same design points as its mainstream server lines, including a refreshed IBM PC Server 310 with 200MHz Pentium at a competitive price to Compaq’s. Above that will be a new Pentium Pro-based 315 model, and upgraded 325, giving it a range of entry-level servers. On top of the 2Gb drive, ECC memory and Ultra SCSI, the new models, including the base one, will include systems management software and a free copy of Lotus Domino, worth $1,000 alone, according to IBM. The servers will run a choice of Novell NetWare, Windows NT, SCO Unix or OS/2 Warp, encrypted on the accompanying compact disk. IBM says, somewhat sniffily, that what Compaq is doing proves that it is just a PC supplier rather than a computer company like Big Blue itself. Compaq says, just wait until the first quarter server sales figures come out, when it expects to have increased its already dominant 30% market share.
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