IBM is launching an entry-level two-way OpenPower server, the 710, next month. It will compete direct with mass-market Linux and Unix products from HP and Sun.

The new server will run both Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Novell's SuSE Linux. As well as a pair of processors, it offers redundant power supplies, PCI slots, and drive bays. Virtualisation - a key upcoming technology - is handled by the micro-partitioning that's standard on IBM's Power-based servers. Its Poer processor runs at 1.65GHz, and the price includes 1GB of RAM, a 73GB 10,000rpm SCSI disk and a DVD-ROM.

The $5,000 OpenPower series opened with the 720, which was launched in September 2004. IBM at the time said the series was core to its plan to offer 64-bit capability at 32-bit prices. The 720 is available in a four-way rack or tower option with maximum memory of 64GB.

All three leading Unix/Linux vendors see the Linux server market as a crucial space to attack, as the market moves towards installing mission-critical applications on Linux platforms. Sun sells AMD-based systems that can run both Linux and its own Solaris x86, while HP markets a host of Linux-based products with CPUs from both major processor foundries.

The new 710 sells for $3,449, and will be available from 18 February.