You Win: IBM Makes Power Blade Software Tiers Make Sense
April 7, 2008 Timothy Prickett Morgan
In late January, when IBM announced delivered i5/OS V6R1 for the System i platform, now known as i 6.1 for the Power Systems platform, the company also announced that it would support that operating system on the four-core Power6-based JS22 blade server for the BladeCenter chassis. This was great, except for one thing: IBM put the JS22 in the P20 software tier.
As you might imagine, despite the substantial computing performance embodied in the JS22 blade, which has four 4.7 GHz Power6 cores and which I estimate to have between 3,800 CPWs and 14,500 CPWs of OS/400, i5/OS, and i performance (depending on how many cores on the blade have the i 6.1 operating system running on them), the fact that IBM’s first blade server supporting the i-class operating system was in the P20 software tier made it basically inappropriate for most of the small and medium businesses that like the i-class of operating systems. Based on CPWs alone, IBM could have made the fourth core in the blade bump it up into the P30 tier, so it could have been worse.
Back in February, when I analyzed IBM’s Power blade strategy in the wake of the i5/OS V6R1 announcement and the impending JS22 general availability date, I said that IBM needed to launch a JS12 blade with one core activated that is priced in the P05 tier and like the 515 user-priced server and a JS12 blade with two cores activated that is in the P10 tier and is priced like the 525 machine. (I had heard rumors about the JS12 and JS22 blades before they were launched, and you read about that in this newsletter, of course.)
As it turns out–and I am happy to report–IBM has done one better than I asked. You will notice in the Power 520, Power 550, and JS12 hardware roundup elsewhere in this issue (see Power6 Chips Get i Support in New Entry and Blade Machines) that IBM has indeed launched a dual-core JS12 machine, but even with both cores activated it is still only in the P05 software tier for i-class operating systems. That is as low as it goes, and that is pretty good for a machine that will be rated at 3,900 CPWs for that single core and maybe 7,500 CPWs for both cores. (Those are estimates, since IBM does not yet have official CPW performance ratings out for the JS12 or the JS22 blades.)
But here is the really good news. After what must have been a lot of complaints from customers who are eager to move to blades but who are not going to do so unless the software tiers are attractive, IBM has quietly moved the JS22 blade server from the P20 to the P10 software tier. What that means is that a rack or tower Power 520 machine and a JS12 blade (all with two Power6 cores) have the exact same P05 software tier. (Granted, the blade does not have quite as much oomph, but that is a thermal issue and well within reason.) And now a four-core JS22 blade is in the P10 software tier, just about where I expect a future four-core Power 520 machine to end up. (The Power 520 scales up to four cores today–and has since January–in the AIX and Linux Edition variants of the box, and there is no way it will not on the i Editions in the future. Remember, we are all one big happy family now. . . . ) A four-core Power 550 is in the P20 tier, just like the JS22 used to be, and that is justified because of the expansion embodied in the Power 550 server and the fact that is can actually scale to eight Power6 cores, which it does in the AIX and Linux Editions.
Good move, IBM, on the JS12 and the rejiggering of software groups on the JS22. If you had not crimped the core counts on the Power 520 and the Power 550 servers, you would have had the trifecta. All I know is that this product line looks–on first pass–a lot better than the System i line. I will be assessing that in the coming weeks to make sure this is indeed the case.