Volume 8, Number 13 -- April 3, 2008

IBM Launches Dual-Core Power6 JS12 Blade Server

Published: April 3, 2008

by Timothy Prickett Morgan

As part of the consolidation of the Power-based System p and System i servers this week and the rebranding of the i5/OS operating system to simply i, or i for Business or IBM i 6.l if you can't stand a single letter product name, Big Blue did the smart thing and got a single-socket Power6 blade server, the JS12, out the door. This is a far more appropriate server for customers with more modest workloads than the four-core JS22 blade, launched last year, can handle.

IBM also announced repacked versions of the entry System p 520 and midrange System p 550 servers that came out at the end of January running AIX and Linux but are now certified to run i5/OS V5R4 or i 6.1. All of these machines are now rebranded as the Power 520 and the Power 550, and the larger System p 570 and System i 570 (also based on the Power6 processor) is now rebranded as the Power 570. Presumably, when IBM soon debuts a Power6-based high-end box, which it has said it will do this month, it will be called the Power 595.

I had the distinct impression from the IBMers I spoke to that the Power Systems rebranding was all about getting a single Power-based server line, and it is going to take some time to reckon whether or not this has actually happened. IBM needs to update its eConfigurator systems, merge feature numbers, rectify pricing differences, update all of its sales and marketing materials, and do a whole lot of other things before this is accomplished. So I am not going there today. And apparently neither is IBM, at least not fully, since the Power 520 Express and Power 550 Express machines that were announced at the end of January are now being billed as AIX and Linux Editions, while the new Power 520 Express and Power 550 Express machines announced today at the COMMON System i user group meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, are being billed as i Editions. In the coming weeks, I will compare the new i-enabled Power6 machines to the older i5/OS V5R4-based Power5+ iron and then I will also see what differences there are between the AIX and Linux Editions and the i Editions. Right now, let me just explain what the three new servers IBM announced today are and I will get the other stuff done as quickly as possible.

So, in the meantime, let's talk about the new JS12 blade server for IBM's BladeCenter boxes. The JS12, which I heard about last fall and told you about as a possible skinnier and cheaper version of the four-core JS22 blade announced last November, is going to be available on May 30. As expected, this blade server is a single-socket machine that has two 3.8 GHz Power6 cores, with AltiVec vector units and decimal math units activated and 4 MB of L2 cache per core. The JS12 comes with 2 MB of DDR2 main memory standard and supports up to 32 GB of main memory using 667 MHz DIMM memory sticks with 1 GB, 2 GB, and 4 GB capacities. If you want to go to the max on memory, you have to step down to 400 MHz 8 GB DIMMs, which are going to be crazy expensive. The JS12 blade has room for two SAS drives and has an onboard RAID mirroring disk controller. It has the base dual-port virtualized Integrated Virtual Ethernet (IVE) Gigabit Ethernet ports IBM is putting on other Power6 servers, and two more Gigabit Ethernet ports can be added with a daughter card on the blade. IBM has not provided CPW ratings for the JS12 blade yet.

The PowerVM Standard Edition hypervisor comes with the blade, and is an option for AIX or Linux but is a requirement for the i 6.1 operating system, which uses the Virtual I/O Server (VIOS) features of the hypervisor to allow i 6.1 to talk to the disks in the blade chassis. The JS12 blade server is in the P05 software tier for i 6.1, which is going to make it very popular with customers since is the least-costly software tier.

For AIX and Linux customers, the JS12 blade comes with two 3.8 GHz Power6 cores activated, 4 GB of memory, one 73.4 GB disk drive, and PowerVM Standard Edition costs $4,228. (This does not include a BladeCenter S chassis, which costs another $4,499.) AIX 5.3 or 6.1 are supported on the JS12 blade, and a license costs $170 for both cores. A one-year Software Maintenance license costs $598, and a three-year license costs $1,614.

The same configuration running i 6.1 (which has an extra Fibre Channel attachment for virtualized storage supporting the operating system and which includes a relational database) costs $4,477. (The disk drives for i 6.1 are formatted down to 69.7 GB because the block sizes for AIX and Linux are different than for i 6.1 and its predecessors.) The JS12 has user-based pricing for i 6.1, and costs $2,245 for the base license, which apparently does not include five users as the license for the base Power 520 does (and which costs the same) because the IBM Website says i shops will have to pay $1,250 for the first 10 users on the blade, and then buy users in groups of 10 for $250 for each user. Basically, IBM is putting a user floor on the machine, and charging as if customers needed 10 users no matter what, but then cuts the cost of the incremental 5 users above the base charge in half. (Is the extra $1,250 really worth it? It is when you think that is all the margin you are going to get, and IBM is not always a lover of consistency when money is involved.) Software Maintenance costs $750 for a year on the JS12 blade, and $2,790 for three years. (Again, that pricing doesn't make a lot of sense.)


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IBM Merges System p and System i Server Lines

IBM Launches Dual-Core Power6 JS12 Blade Server

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