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Volume 19, Number 30 -- August 23, 2010

IBM Ducks i Pricing on Most Entry Power7 Servers

Published: August 23, 2010

by Timothy Prickett Morgan

Last week, I gave you the first pass analysis of the four new entry Power7-based servers from IBM in our Four Hundred Stuff newsletter on announcement day. This week, in The Four Hundred, I will drill down into the Power 710, 720, 730, and 740 servers, giving you some of the pricing information that was missing when we went to press on August 17.

For all the feeds and speeds, read the original announcement story here. To recap briefly, the Power 710 and Power 730 are 2U machines that come in a rack format only with one or two Power7 processor cards and supporting 64 GB or 128 GB of main memory, respectively. The Power 720 is the 4U workhorse machine that replaces the Power 520 and is aimed very squarely at the iSeries, System i, and Power Systems i installed base. It only uses 3 GHz processor cards, like the PS700, PS701, and PS702 blade servers, and its single-socket processor card supports 64 GB on the four-core model (just like the PS700 blade), and supports 128 GB on the six-core and eight-core model. The Power 740 also uses the 4U chassis, and can have one or two processor cards and supports a variety of core counts and clock speeds.


IBM's Power710 and 730 systems: Same skins, different brains.


The Power 710 and 730 are really aimed at the AIX and Linux bases and to offer a competitive platform to take on Oracle's Sparc T series machines and low-end Sparc M series boxes, as well as Hewlett-Packard's Integrity servers running HP-UX and OpenVMS.

"We do support IBM i on the Power 710 and Power 730," explains Jeff Howard, director of marketing for IBM's Power Systems division. "But we still think that most of the Power 520 base will move to the Power 720."

The reason, of course, is that Power 520 machines with two or four cores (if you didn't buy earlier machines with only one core) have a direct upgrade path to the Power 520, which means software licenses will slide over and some of the hardware will be preserved, lowering the cost of the move. I still haven't been able to track down those upgrade prices, but I am working on it.

The one thing that was not clear when IBM briefed me on the Power7 entry and high-end systems ahead of the launch was what the price would be for i 6.1.1 and i 7.1 on the new boxes and what OS/400 and i software tiers the four new entry machines would be in.

The Power 710 and 720 machines run what Big Blue calls IBM i Express Edition, while the Power 730 and 740 machines can run the i Application Server Express Edition (which is the i operating system without a license to use the integrated DB2 operating system on the cores where it is licensed), i Standard Edition, and i Enterprise Edition. Application Server costs $9,000 per core. On all four machines, the i operating system is licensed per core, but on the Power 710 and 720, the code also carries a per-user fee of $250, as it has for several years on entry System i boxes, in conjunction with a lower per-core fee.

The 5250 Enterprise Enablement feature on the Power 710, 730, and 740 machines costs $15,000 per core or $60,000 to activate it on all of the cores in the system; if there is a charge for 5250 capacity on the Power 720, I cannot find it in IBM's announcement letters. It is hard to imagine it is free. Well, to tell the truth, it is very easy to imagine it is free, but I suspect it ain't.

On the Power 710 and 720 machines with only four-core Power7 processors, the machines are in the P05 software tier, while Power 710 and 720 machines using six-core and eight-core processor cards are in the P10 software group. No matter how many cards are installed or what Power7 processors are used, the Power 730 and 740 machines are in the P20 tier. This can mean significantly lower software costs than for the Power 750 server, which can support up to four processor sockets and 32 cores in a single system image.


IBM's Power720 and 740 systems: Available as rack or tower machines.


Now, let's take a look at the Express configurations of the four machines and look at the pricing on the hardware and the software.

On the Power 710 Express machine, the base configuration comes with four 3 GHz Power7 cores, 8 GB of main memory, two 73.4 GB disks, and four Ethernet ports for $6,385. Plunking down i 6.1.1 or i 7.1 costs $2,245 per core, and that license includes five users and 90 days of Software Maintenance (SWMA). Extra users are sold in groups of five for $1,250, and extending that 90-days of SWMA to one year costs another $750. IBM is not providing pricing for the i operating system on larger Power 710 configurations and wants you to call for a quote, which is nonsense. On AIX Edition machines, a Power 710 with six 3.7 GHz cores, 16 GB of main memory, two of those 73.4 GB disks, and four Ethernet ports runs $8,120; a machine with eight cores Power7 cores running at 3.55 GHz on the processor card and the same other hardware costs $14,620. This seems like a bad deal to me. You are paying 80 percent more money for 27 percent more aggregate clocks on the processor card.

The Power 720 Express server, which has the same hardware configuration--four 3 GHz cores, 8 GB of memory, two disks, and four Ethernet ports--but comes in the larger 4U chassis sells for $6,835. (You're not dyslexic, but I am. And that is a cruel set of prices.) That extra $450 gets you the bigger chassis, which has room for more disks and other stuff. The i 6.1.1 and i 7.1 licenses cost the same $2,245 per core, including five users in that price, plus $250 per user on top of that and $750 per core per year for SWMA. IBM is once again withholding pricing on the larger Power 720 Express i Edition machines, but the base hardware for the six-core Power 720 Express machine comes with 16 GB, two disks, and four Ethernet ports for $9,995 and the eight-core model with the same hardware costs $16,995.

You might assume that the i operating system costs the same on these larger Power 710 and Power 720 configurations as it does on the small one with only a four-core processor. This would be great. But IBM is charging $14,995 per core for a license on the larger Power 710 and 720 machines, as it does for other P10-class machines. That price includes SWMA for one year, which is, as best as I can guess from some old QuickPricers, worth $4,000 of that total price (assuming the ratio of license to support has not changed). That makes the i 6.1.1 or i 7.1 per-core charges on the P10-tier versions of the Power 710 and 720 servers cost $10,995. That is not as low as the $5,995 per core that IBM was charging with the System i5 525, which was a much more competitive machine compared to X64 boxes, on the software front, than the Power 710 and Power 720 will be if these numbers are right. There are apparently 30 users thrown into the license per core as well, but again, IBM's wording in the announcement letter is vague and with Express configurations, you cannot easily tell what is part of the product and what is not.

I should be able to look online and see, not guess. As should customers be able to do. But IBM wants partners to use its eConfig tools and know exactly what partners are pricing out in the i market, while it is happy to just put the AIX and Linux Edition prices out there and even sell configured machines them over the Web. I am surprised you can't buy a Power 795 online--so long as it is set up with AIX, of course.

Telling you about the Power 730 Express i Edition pricing is even easier--there isn't any. Ditto for the Power 740 Express i Edition.

I can tell you about the base hardware, however, and also tell you what I think the pricing is for the i operating system. The software is easy. As best I can figure, it costs $44,000 per core to activate i 6.1.1 or i 7.1 on these Power 730 and 740 machines. This price includes one year of SWMA, which is worth $4,000. So the per-core activation is $40,000.

With the Power 730, the machine has to be configured with two processor cards. In base configuration with a two four-core Power7 processors with all eight cores turned on and ready to receive an operating system, plus 32 GB of main memory, two 73.4 GB disks, and those four Gigabit Ethernet ports, the price of the Power 730 is $15,230. Step it up to two processor cards running at 3.7 GHz, and you are at $17,500. If you bump from the four-core to six-core processor cards spinning at 3.7 GHz (for a total of 12 cores) and increase the main memory to 48 GB (keeping two disks and four Ethernet ports), then the price is $19,500 for the Power 730 Express. Moving up to 16 cores on two processor cards equipped with 3.55 GHz Power7 chips and 64 GB of memory (same disks and network ports, again) puts you at $34,630.

The Power 730 is a much cheaper box than the Power 740 as you build it up, but it doesn't have as much memory or peripheral expansion. The smallest Power 740 Express setup has a single processor card with four cores on it running at 3.3 GHz; toss in 16 GB of main memory and the disks and network ports (which rarely change in Express setups), and the machine costs $15,767. Double up the processor cards and the memory and you're at $27,147.

The four-core Power 740 Express machine running at 3.7 GHz costs $17,217 with 16 GB of memory, and doubling the processor cards and memory increases the price to $30,047. The Power 740 Express using six-core Power7 processors running at the same 3.7 GHz clock speed costs $22,502 with 32 GB of memory, and doubling the processor cards but only boosting memory to 48 GB raises the price to $39,287. The top-end Power 740 has two processor cards, each with an eight-core Power7 chip spinning at 3.55 GHz and 64 GB of main memory, and that will cost you $43,375.

Next time, I will put together all of these configurations and add in performance specs in CPWs and the cost of licensing to see how these machines stack up to each other. Something IBM should have done to help customers figure out which one of these four entry boxes they should buy. We sure could use former IBMer Brian Podrow and a 2010 Edition of his Power Systems i QuickPricer.


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