IBM Announces Netfinity 4000R Super-Thin Server

  • Written By: R. Krause
  • Published On: September 10 1999



Event Summary

On September 7th, 1999, International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) announced the Netfinity 4000R, a 1.75"- high server aimed at Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Application Service Providers (ASPs). The 4000R, which will have up to two CPUs (Pentium II or III) per system, is a rack-mountable, stackable system. The system, expected to ship in late September, will cost $3,000 to $4,000.

Market Impact

This announcement sets a new level of CPU density at "two per U" or 84 per rack (42U-high) - 75% more than the previous density mark of 8 CPUs in a 7U height, or 48 CPUs per rack. In addition, this server, based on the Network Engines WebEngine product, can be clustered up to 256 nodes. The result of this could be a RAIS - Redundant Array of Inexpensive Servers. At a time when everyone is jumping on the "appliance server" (a/k/a "thin server") bandwagon, this product has the potential of having a tremendous impact for providers needing this level of CPU power, and for web caching situations.

IBM's entry into this space will have a negative effect on companies like Cobalt Networks (maker of the CacheRAQ thin server line) - the 4000R is a similar product, but it now has IBM's corporate stability and strength behind it. Dell and Compaq may feel the heat, but their appliance servers are considerably larger, with more features, and play to a slightly different market - one where replacing hot-swappable components, rather than replacing the whole server, is important.

This product will provide growth for both IBM and the general market, by accelerating the recent growth of thin servers. In keeping with the general server market trend, it will lead to market consolidation as the small-manufacturer offerings get overshadowed over the longer term (24-36 months, 60% probability).

User Recommendations

This announcement is a departure from IBM's heretofore "me-too" offerings, and may signal a shift in IBM's focus from standard "vanilla" products to more leading-edge systems. (Of course, if IBM had developed this on its own, rather than as a buyout, that would be a definite signal of a change of attitude.)

This product will allow a potential customer to pick a dense, thin server from a major hardware vendor, thus reducing the risk of being left with an unsupported product. In addition, IBM provides servers of all sizes and OSes, so a customer can have an entire "Big Blue" computer center, rather than a thin server from Company A, a mid-range Intel server from Company B, and a Unix server from Company C.

Finally, this product raises the bar for CPU density, and we expect other companies to try to match this. However, it will be another 6-12 months before we expect those products would ship, giving IBM a big head start in the arena.

 
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