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Volume 17, Number 33 -- September 2, 2008

Various System i and Power Systems i Nips and Tucks

Published: September 2, 2008

by Timothy Prickett Morgan

You can tell that Big Blue is pretty much done with thinking about--much less making or selling--Power5+ servers now that it is getting ready to support all of its key operating systems on the complete line of new Power6-based Power Systems machines. With i 6.1 and Linux support coming on the Power 595 big box in September and October, respectively, the Power6 lineup will be completely rolled out. And now it is time to start cleaning up the product catalog a little.

And to that end, IBM announced last Tuesday that August 26 (the same day of the announcement) would be the last day to buy upgrades from Power5 and Power5+ versions of the System i 550 and 570 servers (which bore the 9406-550 and 9406-570 numerical designations) to the first edition of the Power6-based System i 570 machine delivered in the summer of 2007 as the 9406-MMA box. (This machine was replaced with the unified i and p Power Systems 570 box in April of this year.) Various features and feature conversions affiliated with the 9406-MMA box were also withdrawn from marketing.

Starting on December 2, IBM will no longer sell the user-priced System i entry and midrange machines known as the 9407-515, the 9406-525, and the 9406-550. The Power5+ machines have similarly been replaced by Power6 models; the Integrated xSeries Adapter (product number 1519-100) for attaching outboard xSeries and System x servers to iSeries and System i machines (which dates from 2001). A funny little box called the 9411-100 is not going to be available as of December 2, either. This one is not an Integrated xSeries Server, but rather a special I/O subsystem chassis for System p AIX boxes that allows them to support i5/OS and i 6.1 partitions and native System i I/O (controllers, disks, and tapes) on those partitions. This 9411-100 box attaches to System p 570, 590, and 595 servers, and it has a maximum of 270 disks, 84 PCI slots, and up to six HSL-2 loops.

Conversions from Power5 and Power5+ System i 520 servers to the user-priced System i 525 are also being withdrawn from the IBM catalog on December 2, and so are DDR1 main memory features for Power5 and Power5+ servers. A whole bunch of other features, including processor and memory features for various System i 9406-class machines, PCI-X iSCSI adapters and expansion towers, 69.7 GB and 73.4 GB 15K RPM SAS disks for old System i and new Power Systems machines, are also kaput as of December 2. You can get the full list of features withdrawn in this announcement letter. IBM has replacements or alternate features for most of these withdrawn features, which are outlined in the announcement.

As of February 3, you will not be able to have an IBM factory load i5/OS or i operating system source code on 70.56 GB disk drives on iSeries 8XX, System i 5XX, or Power Systems M25 or M50 machines.

IBM also announced last week that it had reduced the prices it is charging to upgrade from 1.65 GHz and 1.9 GHz Power5 server cards to 4 GHz Power6 server cards that are used in making a Power Systems 550 out of an old iSeries or System i 550. The price for upgrading those processor cards used to be $16,092, and now it is 26.5 percent lower at $11,828.

On the software side, IBM announced that it has rejiggered pricing on the iCluster high availability clustering software for the i platform that the company got when it acquired DataMirror last year. Pricing on the one-year renewal for support for DataMirror iCluster was reduced by between 2.7 percent and 80.9 percent, depending on the feature and software tier, and a lot of these prices were cut by high double-digits. Ditto for one-year and three-year after-license reinstatements of support and three-year registrations and renewals for the software. Prices on the iCluster software licenses were also changed, and in some cases they were cut by double-digit amounts and in others they were raised; on average, across all the iCluster features and tiers, the prices dropped by 39 percent, and most features saw their prices decline, not go up. IBM seems pretty intent on getting iCluster customers current on maintenance and competing with Vision Solutions and Maximum Availability in iSeries, System i, and Power Systems i accounts.

Finally, IBM also said last week that as of August 29, it would no longer sell a bunch of dual-core X64 Xeon and Opteron processors from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices for use in its BladeCenter blade servers and its System x rack and tower servers. These chips are one--and soon to be two--generations back from the current X64 chips from Intel and AMD, which not only means they no longer have decent price/performance, but also means that they are getting scarce as hen's teeth out there in the chip channel. IBM is also going to stop selling the earlier Intel quad-core Xeon chips, the 5300 series, which were replaced by the 5300 series last fall.

Customers who are desperate to add more processors to their IBM X64 servers had better buy them now, or be prepared to buy them new from other electronics distributors or second-hand from junk dealers. The problem with this approach is, of course, that server makers often have their own chip mounting techniques and heat sinks, so you can't just buy a processor and plunk it in. A lot of the cost of the chip-heat sink assemblies comes explicitly from the fact that there are no standards among the server makers for these, and that means they can charge whatever they feel like. I found this out the hard way a few years back with a ProLiant server we have here at IT Jungle.


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