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Stephen Shankland

Staff Writer, CNET

IBM on Tuesday announced its least expensive Unix server to date with its new Power5 processor, the p5-510.

The new machine uses a chip with one or two processing engines and accommodates as much as 32GB of memory, IBM said. With a single processing engine running at 1.5GHz, 1GB of memory, dual hard drives and the AIX version of Unix, it costs $4,799.

IBM has long lagged behind No. 1 Sun Microsystems and No. 2 Hewlett-Packard in the Unix market, but the company has been climbing the ranks in recent years. IBM designed its Power5 processor for lower-end products where Sun in particular has been strong.

The Power5 chips can run several operating systems: IBM’s AIX version of Unix, Linux from Red Hat or Novell, and, for systems more powerful than the p5-510, IBM’s i5/OS for midrange servers. In addition to the p5 line, IBM sells the OpenPower models that run only Linux.

Both server lines are part of Big Blue’s effort to spread its Power processors as widely as possible. Power processors also are used in embedded computing tasks such as network equipment, next-generation video game consoles and Apple computers.

The new systems are available in two basic configurations: the 510 for larger customers and the 510 Express for small and medium-size businesses, said Jeff Howard, program director for pSeries servers. The 510 comes with a 1.65GHz processor and the 510 Express with a 1.65GHz processor, he said.

Models with a single processing engine, or core, are scheduled to go on sale Feb. 18 and the dual-engine model in April. All the models except those using the single-core 1.5GHz model have 36MB of high-speed cache memory, IBM said.

The 510 is a rack-mounted system 3.5 inches tall. Inside, it resembles the free-standing 520 models, which can be expanded with more storage and networking cards. It’s also a relative of the OpenPower 710.

IBM’s Power5 systems can be sliced up to run multiple operating systems simultaneously, but doing so requires the purchase of extra virtualization software which, for each p5-510 processor core, costs $590 plus an annual $110 maintenance fee.