GST Unveils Line of Affordable Memory for i5 Servers
March 1, 2005 Alex Woodie
Users of the eServer i5 got a new supplier of main memory last week when GST announced it has entered the business. GST’s new line of IBM clone memory for i5, p5, and pSeries servers is available in 1 GB, 2 GB, 4 GB, and 8 GB capacities, and ranges in price from $550 to $7,375, which is exactly half the price that IBM is charging.
GST’s memory products consists of 208-pin dual inline memory modules (DIMMs) that are fully plug-compatible and equivalent to IBM’s memory products. It is selling two versions for the eServer i5s, one that works with i5 520s and 550s, and one for the larger i5 570s.
Four memory modules are available for the eServer i5 520s and 550s, including 1 GB, 2 GB, 4 GB, and 8 GB capacities, which cost $550, $850, $1,775, and $6,185, respectively. By comparison, IBM’s memory for these machines costs from $1,100 for 2 GB to $12,375 for 8 GB. GST’s memory for the i5 570s is slightly more expensive and is available in only three capacities, including a 2 GB module that costs $1,300, a 4 GB module that costs $3,250, and an 8 GB module that costs $7,375. This compares favorably with IBM’s memory for the i5 570s, which costs from $2,600 to $14,746.
These same memory modules are also available on eServer p5 servers, which use the same Power5-based hardware as the eServer i5. Pricing and capacities are identical between GST’s memory for p5 and i5 servers, because they are practically identical products. GST is also selling memory for older pSeries servers, including memory for the pSeries 6C3/6E3 and 6C4/6E4/6M2.
The GST i5 and p5 main memory and its prices are similar as those offered by clone memory maker Dataram, which unveiled its line of memory for i5 and p5 servers last fall (see “Dataram Sells Clone eServer i5, p5 Main Memory”), although Dataram appears to offer a 16 GB module, too.
Massive R&D Spree
GST developed the i5 and p5 memory itself and is manufacturing the product at its Lake Forest, California headquarters, says GST chairman and CEO, David Breisacher, who designed and built clone AS/400 memory with his former company, BCC Technologies, a decade ago. BCC was also one of the few remaining third party suppliers of internal disk arrays for the AS/400 and iSeries servers. Breisacher left BCC to found GST, and his former company was renamedeStorage, which is located just up Interstate 5 (or I5 to West Coasters) from GST in Irvine. Late last year, eStorage was bought by Zzyzx Peripherals, which is located just down the I5 in San Diego.
Breisacher says GST is in the midst of a “massive R&D spree” and will be rolling out additional products at a rapid rate for the next few months. Among the new products will be memory for IBM’s OpenPower line of Power5-based Linux servers, which are based on the same hardware as the i5 and p5, but which have lower-priced processor, memory, and disk features compared to its OS/400 and AIX brethren. OpenPower servers have a lower price because IBM is trying to promote the idea of using Linux on Power servers for new customers to its Power server line, and to do so, it has to get closer to X86 server prices. The i5 and p5 are priced to compete in the Unix midrange market, not the X86 market.
Still up in the air is whether GST will build memory for the monster i5 595 and p5 590 and 595. One thing is for certain, however, and that is GST will not be in the business of developing memory for AS/400 and iSeries servers. “We are seeing a rapid shift from AS/400 and iSeries straight to the i5s,” Breisacher says.
To an extent, GST has been able to kill two birds with one development effort with its new line of memory for the eServer i5s and p5s. While these two server lines are both based on the same Power5 architecture and share many similar parts, memory designed for one doesn’t necessarily run on the other. “That’s a misnomer,” says Breisacher, who has much experience connecting a variety of storage devices to the proprietary OS/400 server–and dealing with IBM’s sometimes less-than-friendly reactions to it.
While IBM is no longer gouging its OS/400 customers on disk and memory as it once did (thanks to the introduction of the “Squadron” line of Power5 servers, which brought price parity between the two machines), it is still charging about 40 percent more for memory on the i5 and p5 than on the OpenPower Linux boxes, and that could provide fertile ground for third-party memory makers like GST and others.
Breisacher says he’s looking forward to providing IBM with some “friendly competition,” and grabbing his share of an i5 memory market, which he values at about $400 million per year. He doesn’t see a return to the “memory wars” of the 1990s, and says IBM may have learned a thing or two about cultivating a healthy i5 ecosystem, which is also reflected in IBM’s announcement from last Friday (see “Big Blue Pumps Big Bucks into the iSeries”).
“If you look at the i5, I’m hoping the attitude of IBM is changing, and they’re realizing you have to have an open platform to ensure the longevity of the system,” Breisacher says. “So invite third parties in. I know many CEOs don’t appreciate not having a choice.”