Let’s Take a Closer Look at JS22 Blade Servers Running i5OS V6R1
February 4, 2008 Timothy Prickett Morgan
No new server hardware relating to the i5/OS platform was announced in conjunction with the launch of i5/OS V6R1 last week, but IBM did, as expected, say that V6R1 would be the official release supported on the JS22 two-socket, Power6-based blade server that IBM announced last November.
The JS22s come in a standard BladeCenter form factor and can be plugged into either the new BladeCenter H chassis, which runs on 220/240-volt power and comes in a 9U rack-mounted form factor with room for 14 vertical blades. The BladeCenter S chassis, which is aimed at small and medium businesses and office use, comes in a 7U form factor and supports 110/120-volt power–regular wall power like we have in our homes and that most regular tower and rack servers use. The BladeCenter S chassis holds up to six two-socket blades or up to three four-socket blades. All of the blades that IBM currently sells–the JS22 Power6, HS21 Xeon, LS21 and LS41 Opteron, JS21 PowerPC 970MP, and QS21 Cell blades–can plug into either the BladeCenter H or BladeCenter S chassis–and indeed, they can also plug into the seven-year-old original BladeCenter chassis and its telecom variant, the BladeCenter T. The BladeCenter S, interestingly, has up to two additional disk storage modules, which have six 3.5-inch SAS or SATA disk in them, can plug into the unit and link to the blade servers as well. The unit has four hot swap power bays, four fans, a management service processor, and room for three Gigabit Ethernet switches. The unit has a CD/DVD drive that is shared by all of the blades.
As such, the BladeCenter S is the perfect SMB box, in as much as it can mix X64 and Power processors in a single frame and run i5/OS, Windows, Linux, and AIX applications all on the same collection of infrastructure. On February 29, IBM will begin shipping the JS22 blade in the BladeCenter S chassis running AIX or Linux, and is now promising that support for the SMB chassis will come later in 2008, probably around the time V6R1 starts shipping on March 21. Until then, customers who want to buy a JS22 blade server setup have to use the larger, 240-volt BladeCenter H chassis and then they can get i5/OS V6R1 when it becomes available a month and a half from now.
I have also heard rumors about a JS12 blade server, which could possibly be a single-socket, dual-core Power6 blade, which may be more suitable for i5/OS shops than the two-socket, quad-core JS22 blade anyway. IBM has not announced such a blade and does not answer direct questions about whether or not it exists.
The JS22 blade (7998-61XA) comes with four 4 GHz Power6 cores activated, and the AltiVec VMX vector co-processors turned on. It can support up to 32 GB of main memory and up to two SAS disk drives. It also uses the Virtual I/O Server (from AIX) to virtualize all I/O on the blade so it can support i5/OS, AIX, and Linux all on the same blade. (X64 blades have their own means of virtualizing I/O and attaching to networks and external storage, and at this point it is usually VMware‘s ESX Server.) The Power6 chips used in the JS22 blades have 4 MB of L2 cache per core and the base blade comes with 4 GB of main memory and a single 73.4 GB disk drive (SAS, 10K RPM). The blade costs $6,129, with AIX 5.3 or 6.1 costing $340 and one year of Software Maintenance costing $1,196.
Now, here is where I am going to get really annoyed. If you want to run i5/OS V6R1 on the JS22 blade, you have to buy a different model (7998-61XB), one that has the exactly same hardware configuration and that costs $9,457. The JS22 is, according to IBM, priced like the user-priced System i 525 rack and tower server, meaning it has both processor and user components to the price; it is in the P20 software tier. So it costs another $14,995 for the basic i5/OS V6R1 license (which includes a $10,995 licensing fee and $4,000 for a year of Software Maintenance) and another $2,500 for every 10 i5/OS named users added to the system, up to a maximum of 40 users. Now I know that i5/OS has an integrated database management system and lots of other neat things in there. But no way is that extra $3,328 for the basic JS22 hardware even remotely justifiable. If it were me, I would simply tell IBM, “I don’t think so.” (And if I am missing some value that is being added here, by all means, IBM, let me know.)
None of this pricing information is in the announcement letter, by the way, and the IBMers who briefed me, who know I have been keen on getting an OS/400 blade server for seven years, didn’t get into it, either.
Here’s what I want to know now. Where is the JS12 blade server? Because these prices are just way too high for most OS/400 and i5/OS shops, and a four-core Power6 blade is overkill anyway for both the BladeCenter S chassis and for OS/400 and i5/OS shops who might need only a few thousand CPWs of performance for their key workloads.