IBM will begin shipping its pSeries 690 servers, next month, with a faster, 1.9GHz Power4+ processor, a company executive said.

Further out, it plans to offer a new memory card that will double the amount of memory the high-end systems can support.

The p690 is the most powerful of IBM's pSeries line of Unix servers and is available in configurations ranging from eight to 32 processors. At present it supports up to 512GB of memory, but on June 25 IBM will begin offering the systems with a new 128GB DIMM card, increasing the limit to one terabyte, according to Jim McGaughan, IBM's director of eServer strategy.

Although the Unix market shrank by 3.8 percent in the third quarter of 2003, the last for which figures are available, IBM's pSeries servers have done well, growing sales by two percent during that period, according to IDC.

During that time, IBM upgraded a number of its pSeries systems to the Power4+ processor, including the p690 and the mid-range p670 and p655. While processor upgrades are in the works for the other members of the pSeries family, McGaughan would not say whether these upgrades will be based on the 1.9GHz Power4+ or its successor, the Power5 processor, which is expected in the second half of this year.

Pricing for the 1.9-GHz p690 systems will start at $641,783 (£342,000) for an eight-way server with 16GB of memory and two 236GB disk drives. A 32-way system with 64GB of memory will start at just over $2 million (£1.06m). Servers based on the 1.9GHz processor will be available 5 March, IBM said.

Effective Tuesday, IBM is also dropping the price of its 1.5GHz and 1.7GHz p690s by 12 to 15 percent, depending on the configuration, McGaughan said. For example, a 1.7GHz, eight-way p690 with 16GB of memory and two 236GB hard drives will start at $528,488 (£281,700), or about 12 percent less than its former price.