IBM model RISC System / 6000 550. Introduced in 1990

The RISC System/6000 (RS/6000) is a family of RISC-based Unix servers, workstations and supercomputers made by IBM in the 1990s. The RS/6000 family replaced the IBM RT PC computer platform in February 1990 and was the first computer line to see the use of IBM’s POWER and PowerPC based microprocessors. In October 2000, the RS/6000 brand was retired for POWER-based servers and replaced by the eServer pSeries. Workstations continued under the RS/6000 brand until 2002, when new POWER-based workstations were released under the IntelliStation POWER brand.

The first RS/6000 models used the Micro Channel bus, later models used PCI. Some later models conformed to the PReP and CHRP standard platforms, which were co-developed with Apple and Motorola, with Open Firmware. The plan was to enable the RS/6000 to run multiple operating systems such as Windows NT, NetWare, OS/2, Solaris, Taligent, AIX and Mac OS but in the end only IBM’s Unix variant AIX was used and supported on RS/6000. Linux is widely used on CHRP based RS/6000s, but support was added after the RS/6000 name was changed to eServer pSeries in 2000.

The RS/6000 family also included the POWERserver servers, POWERstation workstations and Scalable POWERparallel supercomputer platform. While most machines were desktops, desksides, or rack-mounted, there were laptop models too. Famous RS/6000s include the PowerPC 604e-based Deep Blue supercomputer that beat world champion Garry Kasparov at chess in 1997, and the POWER3-based ASCI White which was the fastest supercomputer in the world during 2000–2002.

Many RS/6000 and subsequent pSeries machines came with a service processor, which booted itself when power was applied and continuously ran its own firmware, independent of the operating system. The service processor could call a phone number (via a modem) in case of serious failure with the machine. Early advertisements and documentation called the service processor “System Guard”, (or SystemGuard) although this name was apparently dropped later on, roughly around the same time that the simplified RS/6000 name was adopted for the computer line itself.

Late in the RS/6000 cycle, the service processor was “converged” with the one used on the AS/400 machines.

POWER machines typically ran AIX. Solaris, OS/2 and Windows NT were also ported to PowerPC. Later Linux was also used.

Some AIX systems support IBM Web-based System Manager.

Some models were marketed under the RS/6000 POWERstation and POWERserver names.

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