And Then There Was One: The New and Improved Power 570
April 14, 2008 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Two weeks ago, at the COMMON midrange user group in Nashville, Tennessee, IBM formally merged the System i and System p brands, creating a single Power Systems product line with the Power 520 and Power 550 servers while also launching i 6.1 (formerly known as i5/OS V6R1) on them. And last week, the company delivered the top-end 64-core Power 595 server, and then did a little product cleanup by merging the formerly distinct System i and System p versions of the 570.
So now, the entire Power Systems product line has been consolidated down to only a handful of machines. On the commercial processing front, the line includes the Power 520 (up to four cores), the Power 550 (up to eight cores), the Power 570 (up to 16 cores), and the Power 595 (up to 64 cores) in rack or tower configurations; the product line also includes the dual-core JS12 blade server and the quad-core JS22 blade server. All use variants of the Power6 processor, and all of machines support i5/OS V5R4 or i 6.1, AIX 5.3 or 6.1, and Linux 2.6 from Red Hat and Novell. On the technical computing front, customers can use any of those above-mentioned servers, but they also can deploy QS21 Cell-based blade servers (which support Linux), Blue Gene/L massively parallel machines (which only run Linux, too), and the 32-core Power 575 behemoth (which was launched last week as well and which supports AIX and Linux). Here’s the happy family, all assembled for a photo:
As you might expect, the System p variant of the merged 570 box won the battle and came out on top. So now you are going to be ordering a 9117-MMA server. Say goodbye to the 9406 product number that AS/400s, iSeries, and System i machines have been using since 1988. The good news for OS/400, i5/OS, and i shops is that the merging of the two product lines means that their System i features can be migrated over and they can also make use of various System p features inside the boxes when supporting AIX or Linux workloads. More importantly, the merged Power 570 machine, which scales from one to 16 processors, now gives i5/OS V5R4 and i 6.1 shops more granularity in processor speeds, since the Power 570 supports 3.5 GHz, 4.2 GHz, and 4.7 GHz dual-core Power6 processors. On the System i 570 machine announced last summer and shipped last fall, customers could only get the faster and more expensive 4.7 GHz Power6 cores.
Equally important, the Power 570 supports any combination of i5/OS V5R4 or i 6.1, AIX, or Linux on the box. The System i customers could run the one-to-four chassis machine as a single system image with i5/OS V5R4M5 or i 6.1 (once it became available on March 21), or they could deploy the PowerVM hypervisor and run multiple instances of i5/OS or i 6.1, AIX, or Linux. But System p shops deploying an AIX box were limited to supporting only two i5/OS or i 6.1 partitions up until next week. (Why? Because IBM said so, and likely to prevent customers from buying System p gear, which was cheaper, and installing the base minimum AIX on it to qualify as a System p purchase.)
Customers who have System i or System p 570-class machines with Power5+ processor can upgrade into the new Power 570, and if they so desire it, customers with last year’s System i 570 or System p 570 machines based on the Power6 processor can convert them to the Power 570, thus preserving their serial numbers (important for accounting reasons) and getting them in line for future upgrades in the Power Systems product line. The move from the System i 9406-MMA Power6 box to the Power 570 can be done at no charge, apparently, but requires a rejiggering of the structure of the items in the system since software and hardware are being pulled apart with the Power Systems. The jump from the System p 570 (9117-MMA) from last year to the new 9117-MMA box, which is the Power 570, is a firmware upgrade. Moving from the prior System i 570 machines (9406-570s) to the Power 570 can be accomplished in two ways–upgrading to the 9406-MMA and then doing the rejiggering to get to the Power 570, or a straight upgrade to the Power 570. The System p 570 (9117-570s) can be accomplished in the same manner, with a two-step upgrade or straight to the Power 570. By allowing the two-step upgrade, IBM is allowing the channel to get rid of whatever inventory they have and also giving customers a chance to move from earlier OS/400 and AIX releases to i5/OS V5R4 or AIX 5.3 and then on to i 6.1 or AIX 6.1. IBM has also added upgrade paths for some memory cards that were deployed on Power5+ based 570 machines; if cards can’t be moved, IBM will give customers equivalent DDR2 memory capacity at no charge as part of their upgrade.
As you remember, the 570-class machines are comprised of from one to four two-socket servers that can scale from a single chassis with one processor core activated to a four-chassis box with 16 cores activated. This has been the basic design of 570 machines since they were launched back with the Power5 processors back in 2004. The 4U form factor chasses are connected through their memory subsystems into a single system image using fiber optic cables. The Power 570 has six hot-swap 3.5-inch SAS disks, hot swap redundant power supplies, and a choice of a two-port Gigabit Virtual Ethernet, four-port Gigabit Virtual Ethernet, or two-port 10 Gigabit Virtual Ethernet networking. The machine also has four HMC ports (one per chassis). Each processor card in the Power 570 supports a dozen DDR2 memory slots. On the 3.5 GHz machine, main memory scales from 2 GB to 384 GB, but on the 4.2 GHz machine IBM is scaling memory to a maximum of 768 GB. (So be careful when you buy, since memory is as expensive as processors on modern servers.) The Power 570 supports either 20 or 48 RIO-2 I/O drawers (depending on the features you have), up to 32 I/O drawers on the 12X InfiniBand loops, and up to 110 SAS disk drawers attached to PCI disk controllers. The box supports up to 60 disk expansion drawers on i5/OS V5R4M5 and i 6.1 partitions, and up to 40 disk expansion drawers on AIX and Linux partitions.
The new, consolidated Power 570 will be available on May 6. IBM has not yet announced pricing for the hardware or software, except for some pricing on the upgrading and converting of some features. As soon as I get my hands on pricing, I will do the usual analysis.