By Timothy Prickett Morgan
Last Monday, as expected, IBM duly announced the new nodes for its RS/6000 SP parallel servers that use its 200 MHz Power3 chips. The new nodes, as we reported, come in one-way or two-way configurations in both thin (low I/O) and wide (high I/O) models. A thin Power3 node costs $22,700, while the wide node costs $27,000. Additional raw Power3 CPUs cost $8,000. The new nodes work in any SP configuration with AIX 4.3.2, as IBM told us last week, but they require a new SP switch, the SP Switch MX2 Adapter, which costs $12,500; the new nodes will not work with the older switches or the High Performance SP switch. Upgrades from prior switches to the MX2 cost $10,000. The nodes will be available on February 26 along with the new switch. To help stimulate sales, IBM is offering customers who buy the new Power3 nodes a 40 % discount if they buy before July 30. IBM also cut SP memory prices by between 40% and 47 % to between $30 and $50 per megabyte. This is still nearly prohibitively expensive, but so was the former pricing. Nonetheless, customers should push hard for big memory discounts on the front end of an SP deal because there will be no chance of a price break once they are in the SP fold. The new Power3 nodes were big news for high-end AIX customers, but IBM needs to keep selling low-end models, too. That’s why it chopped prices for the 7025-F40 (which can have one or two of IBM’s 233 MHz 604e chips) by 29% and cut tags on the 7025-F50 (which can have one to four 332 MHz 604e chips) by 30%. The base F40 now costs $9,900 and the base F50 costs $13,900. An extra processor for the F40 costs $2,500 (down 25%), while extra processors for the F50 cost between $4,500 to $5,000 apiece, up 13 to 25%. At these prices, the 43P-260 server using the Power3 chip IBM just announced for the SPs is a better price/performer, even on commercial jobs, but the F50 offers considerably better value for money and somewhat more expandability. Nonetheless, 64- bit software and hardware is the way of the future at IBM, and it might make more sense for customers to buy the Power3 model even if it is more expensive since IBM will offer performance upgrades to it in September, while the company won’t ever enhance the F50.