The future of Sequent Computer Systems' prized NUMAtechnology--secured in IBM's $810 million acquisition of the company two months ago--is getting clearer. The highly scalable, symmetric multiprocessing technology will become a linchpin in IBM's data warehousing strategy. Already, NUMA-Q servers are being subtly positioned as alternatives to IBM's existing business-intelligence workhorse, the RS/6000.
IBM this week will open a data center of NUMA-Q systems that will be devoted to helping companies test and deploy business-intelligence applications. By February, the NUMA-Q line will be able to run IBM's flagship database, Universal DB2; the systems already support Oracle and Informix databases.
NUMA, or Non-Uniform Memory Access, is a hardware-software combination that works with Intel or RISC processors and overcomes some of the limitations of other symmetric multiprocessor platforms. NUMA-Q servers running Sequent's Dynix Unix, and eventually the forthcoming Monterey Unix operating system, on Intel Xeon processors could emerge as IBM's preferred platform for business-intelligence applications. "NUMA-Q fits nicely for the high-end sweet spot, starting at 500 Gbytes of data," says Dan Graham, global solutions executive with IBM Global Business Intelligence Solutions.
IBM eventually plans to incorporate NUMA's memory-sharing capabilities into its Windows NT Netfinity servers, PowerPC RS/6000 line, and even the AS/400. But that won't happen until 2001 at the earliest. In the meantime, IBM customers will have to choose between the RS/6000 and NUMA-Q--not to mention IBM's other server options--for data warehousing projects. And IBM says it won't push NUMA-Q for data warehousing until Windows 2000 is proven to be more scalable than Windows NT.
Analysts say adding NUMA to IBM's RS/6000 SMP systems will be an important advance. It's "the last best hope for the RS/6000," says Wayne Kernochan, Aberdeen Group senior VP. He maintains that IBM has lost data warehouse business to HP and Sun because of the gap between its RS/6000 SMP hardware and its massively parallel RS/6000 SP system.