Power6 Chips Get i Support in New Entry and Blade Machines
April 7, 2008 Timothy Prickett Morgan
As part of the consolidation of the Power-based System i and System p servers last 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 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. These are now simply the Power 520 and the Power 550.
IBM also 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 currently using OS/400 and i5/OS or looking at a move to i 6.1 than is the four-core JS22 blade server, which IBM announced last year and plunked i5/OS V6R1 upon (now rebranded as i 6.1) in March.
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 now. 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 last Wednesday 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 last week are and I will get the other stuff done as quickly as possible.
The Power 520 Express i Edition is going to be the workhorse for the i 6.1 operating system, although it will also run i5/OS V5R4 with Modification 5, which is being backcast with the i 5.4 brand name. There are two variants of this server, and they are intended to replace the user-priced System i 515 and 525 servers that IBM announced last year as a means of kicking up some business at the low-end of the market where the OS/400 and i5/OS business pushes most of its server volumes (and always has).
There is a single-core Power 520 Express i Edition, which has the product number 9407-M15, has a 4.2 GHz Power6 core (one of them in the dual-core chip package is deactivated) with 4 MB of L2 cache that is rated at 4,300 CPWs. People are going to call this the M15 box, I am sure, starting right here, and it has from 1 GB to 16 GB of main memory (DDR2 style) and from two to six 3.5-inch SAS disk drives (up to 1.7 TB of capacity). As was the case with the System i 515, the single-core M15 variant has limited I/O and memory scalability compared to its more powerful sibling, and that is so by design–why else would you buy the bigger box? The M15 has an integrated RAID controller, room for an internal tape drive, and five peripheral slots. (There are two half-length PCI-Express x8 slots, one full length PCI-Express x8 slot, and two full-length PCI-X slots. Those two PCI-X slots can be configured as iSCSI links to outboard Windows and Linux X64 servers). The machine also has two base Gigabit Ethernet ports (expandable to eight). Like other entry AS/400, iSeries, and System i servers, there is no upgrade path from the M15 server to larger boxes in the Power Systems line. With 2 GB of main memory, two 69.7 GB SAS drives, a DVD drive, and a DAT tape drive, this base unit costs $6,381 in a rack or tower configuration. It will be available on April 18. (This is called the Entry Edition, technically.)
The 9407-M15 machine is in the P05 software tier. The i 6.1 operating system, which includes the DB2 for i database, costs $2,245 for the single core in the box, and IBM has priced i5/OS V5R4 at the same rate. This machine is configured with the PowerVM Standard Edition hypervisor for logical partitioning, and the price includes five users, and additional users can be added in groups of five for $1,250 (or $250 a piece). One year of Software Maintenance for the box costs $750, and a three-year contract costs $2,790. (Why is support and maintenance more expensive on a three-year contract than for three one-year contracts? I dunno.)
A Growth Edition variant of the M15 machine adds 2 GB more memory, two more disks, 175 MB of write cache for the disk controller, 10 more users, and a license to DB2 Web Query. Pricing is not yet out for this.
The other variant of the Power 520 Express i Edition is the 9408-M25, and this machine comes with one or two 4.2 GHz Power6 cores (that is one chip in one socket, even though the Power 520 machine in the AIX and Linux Edition has two sockets for a maximum of four cores); each core has its own 4 MB L2 cache. The box has the same number of memory slots as the M15 machine, but IBM is allowing the M25 variant to use slower (400 MHz) and denser (4 GB) memory DIMMs in this model, boosting the maximum memory to 32 GB. The base M25 has a rating of 4,300 CPWs, and with two cores activated, it is rated at 8,300 CPWs. Like larger machines in last year’s System i line (but not the i525 this box replaces), the M25 has up to six HSL I/O loops (similar to Fibre Channel) and even has one 12X loop (similar to InfiniBand) built in, which means it can access external I/O drawers to really build out peripheral capacity. So while the base Power 520 box has only room for six SAS drives, the box can now support six HSL I/O drawers or four 12X I/O drawers, which boosts the disk capacity this two-socket server can address up to 78 TB. The maximum number of drives it can address is 278 units, which is important for online transaction processing jobs where disk arms are far more important than capacity. The M25 machine tops out at 88 slots (a mix of PCI-Express and PCI-X) across the I/O drawers and the system unit. It will also be available on April 18.
The 9408-M25 machine is in the P10 software tier, and this two-core 520 Express i Edition machine comes in four variants: one configured for 30 users, one for 150 users, one for unlimited users, and one as a Solution Edition. The base setup has 4 GB of main memory, four SAS disk drives, one 175 MB disk write cache, two power supplies, a license to the i 6.1 or i5/OS V5R4 operating system and to the PowerVM Standard Edition. Only one of the cores is activated, and IBM is suggesting a base Entry Edition configuration for the M25 box includes support for 30 users and has 8 GB of memory, six 69.7 SAS drives, the write cache for the disks, a quad-port Ethernet adapter, two power supplies, a 12X loop adapter, and a whole bunch of other peripherals; it also includes System i Access, WebSphere Development Studio and Rational Developer for i, and DB2 Web Query. Pricing for the 9408-M25 was not available as we went to press. The resellers I spoke with last week are utterly baffled about pricing for this machine, too, and are waiting for more information from their master resellers and IBM. I think IBM doesn’t want to push any of the larger boxes online directly, including the Power 550 machine also announced last Wednesday.
Speaking of the Power 550, it is a four-socket, eight-core Power6 system in the AIX and Linux Edition but tops out as a four core machine with the i Edition. The Power 550 machine, which goes by the 9409-M50 designation, is not a user-priced box like the System i 515 and 525 and Power 520 boxes, but rather uses per-core pricing for software like the existing Power6-based System i 570, which is being rebranded as the Power 570.
The 9409-M50 box has from one to four 4.2 GHz Power6 cores (that’s two sockets for the i Edition) and spans from 4,800 CPWs to 18,000 CPWs of performance on OS/400, i5/OS, and i workloads. The machine spans from 2 GB to 128 GB of main memory and has up to six internal SAS drives for a maximum of 1.7 TB of internal storage. The machine also sports two HSL-2 or 12X I.O loops, for a maximum of a dozen HSL-2 or eight 12X I/O drawers, which boosts the maximum number of SAS or SCSI disk arms to 546 and the capacity up to 154 TB for this M50 box. The machine has one embedded disk controller, and using feature slots or peripheral drawers, it can host up to 60 disk controllers. The M50 server has the same three PCI-Express and two PCI-X slots as the M15 and M25 Power machines, and the system, with I/O drawers installed, can handle up to 171 peripheral cards and a maximum of 96 Gigabit Ethernet ports. The Power 550 i Edition server is in the P20 software group and will be available on May 23. Pricing is not yet available for the box.
The new JS12 blade server, 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 and shipping only a few weeks with i5/OS V5R4M5 or i 6.1 support, 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, which is going to make it very popular with customers. (More on this as I get more information about the BladeCenter S chassis and more detailed pricing for the rest of the Power Systems products.)
A base BladeCenter JS12 blade server with two cores activated, 4 GB of memory, one 73.4 GB disk drive (formatted down to 69.7 GB I am guessing), and PowerVM Standard Edition costs $4,477. (This does not include a BladeCenter S chassis, which costs another $4,499.) 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.)
All three of these machines support the recent releases of AIX and Linux as well as the i5/OS V5R4 or i 6.1 operating systems. The JS12 blade only supports i 6.1, though, just like the JS22 blade previously announced.