IBM is launching an update of its Power processor iSeries servers today, along with a revamp of the OS. As well as being faster, the machines bring greater integration with Windows, as well as Linux and Unix. This follows last autumn's similar refresh of Big Blue's pSeries servers.

IBM's pitch is that you can partition one of its multi-processor iSeries servers into several virtual machines instead of running a multitude of single application servers, saving admin and maintenance time, as well as being more reliable and available.

All of the four-strong range, the 520, 555, 570 and 595, can now run up to 10 partitions per CPU, inside which can be hosted Unix or Linux. Additionally, using an add-on card, the iSeries server can be used as a big storage device from which a Windows-based xSeries server can boot.

Three of the machines get an upgrade to the Power5+ chip - essentially a speeded up Power5. The 520 runs at 1.1GHz, the 550 and most 570s get faster, 1.9GHz silicon, while the 16-way 570 houses 2.2GHz parts. The top-end 595 remains wedded to the Power5 for the moment, Product manager Ian Jarman argued that it can house up to 64 CPUs and has enough compute power already.
The new version of the OS, i5/OS V5R4, allows users to partition the servers and run several virtual machines, up to 10 per CPU, each containing one of a number of guest OSes.

One significant feature is the tool designed to help customers, who typically come from the AS/400 world, to migrate from green screens onto Web-based applications by placing a wrapper around them. The aim is to entice customers to abandon older, RPG-based applications for more modern systems. IBM seems to be frustrated that customers persist in running 20 to 30-year-old RPG applications that continue to do the job.

V5R4 also includes a 32-bit Java VM, which IBM said customers asked for. Although the previous version ran a 64-bit JVM, the 32-bit version needs less memory, allowing the machine to run more applications without adding memory.

Also included are tools for database index management, along with enhanced ODBC, OLE-DB, and .Net interfaces. Storage capabilities are updated to include a virtual tape interface and hardware storage protection, whose aim is to stop non-IBM programs from running in microcode. It means that third-party software vendors must write to APIs instead of direct to the metal. Jarman said that customers asked for this feature because of new mandatory auditing standards.

The bottom-end 520 constitutes 80 per cent of sales, according to Jarman, claiming 245,000 customers worldwide for the iSeries, with the biggest single block, 46 per cent, in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.