Sundry Power Systems Announcements
April 14, 2008 Timothy Prickett Morgan
As is always the case when IBM revamps a server line, there are a lot of little details and announcements that are overshadowed by the new servers and systems software. In this Power6 revamp of the former System i line, which is now but one platform on the unified Power Systems platform, IBM has staggered the operating system and hardware announcements throughout early 2008. And last week, there were still some loose ends to tie up.
The existing Power6-based System p and System i servers as well as the new boxes announced in the past two weeks have a whole bunch of new storage and I/O features. The Power 550, which spans up to eight Power6 cores, is going to get a new chassis on November 21 that has a new backplane to accommodate small form factor (2.5-inch) SAS disk drives–something I have been crabbing about for a while. (The 2.5-inch disks obviously take up a lot less space and burn a lot less energy than 3.5-inch SAS or SCSI disks, but the smaller SAS units only spin at 10K RPM compared to the top-end 15K RPM speeds of bigger SAS and SCSI drives.) IBM will be charging $498 for a 73.4 GB small SAS disk and $650 for a 146.8 GB unit.
The Power 520 and 550 servers also have a new split disk backplane option for the servers, which allows for two SAS controllers to be used on the internal SAS disk drives. This does two things. First, it allows a controller to handle fewer drives, which is important for performance in some cases, and second, it will allow (presumably) for RAID 50 mirroring of disk arrays within a single system. (RAID 50 is when you take two RAID 5 disk arrays and mirror them at the controller level as well as striping data below the controller. Think of it as a belt and suspenders.) The split backplane, feature 8346, costs $799. These boxes are also getting new PCI-X SAS adapter cards, too. Feature 5902 is a PCI-X DDR dual-port X4 3 Gb/sec SAS RAID disk controller, which IBM bills as the high-performance card; it costs $1,889. Feature 5912 is also a PCI-X DDR dial-port X4 SAS adapter, but apparently it has lower bandwidth (I would guess 1.5 GB/sec, but IBM does not say); it costs $825.
The Power 520 and Power 550 machines also have two new tape backup features. The first, feature 5746, is a half-height LT04 Ultrium tape drive that has a SAS interface; it can archive up to 800 GB of uncompressed data onto a single tape cartridge, and can handle up to 1.6 TB with compression on (provided the data is not media-style content that does not compress well). Feature 5746 costs $3,777, and a single 800 GB cartridge costs $1,209. IBM has also announced a new DAT tape drive for these two machines, feature 5619, which can handle 80 GB of raw data (160 GB with compression) that costs $1,661. The cartridge for this unit costs $452. (Clearly, the big money is in the media these days, although no one would call either of these tape drives inexpensive.)
For those of you running super-high-speed networks, the two entry Power Systems boxes also have a new 10 Gigabit Ethernet adapter card, which plugs into a PCI slot and which costs an amazing $4,742. You can see that 10 GE is going to take some time to take the market by storm at those prices. . . .
Finally, the Power 550 is getting a hot-swap, 1,700 watt, 48-volt DC power supply (which is increasingly being used to replace 120-volt supplies because of the efficiencies that come from stepping down voltage less as electricity is converted for use by motherboards); this is feature 7708, which costs $1,500 and which will be available on June 6. This power supply is compliant with the NEBS and ETSI telecommunications standards.
IBM also last week announced a new deskside Hardware Management Console for existing System i and System p servers (both Power5 and Power5+ models) as well as for the unified Power Systems line (which is based on the Power6 chip). The deskside HMC, product number 7042-C07, is a deskside workstation for managing logical partitions and virtual I/O on i5/OS V5R4, i 6.1, AIX 5.2 and 5.3, and Linux partitions on 570, 590, and 595 class servers. Smaller boxes–515, 520, and 525–can use the Integrated Virtualization Manager (IVM) extensions to manage single instances of i5/OS, i, or AIX and up to four Linux partitions without an HMC, but IBM has been pretty keen on recommending an HMC. Once customers have multiple i5/OS, i, or AIX partitions, they have to use an HMC, whether they like it or not. Anyway, this new deskside HMC costs $1,830. It is basically a workstation based on a dual-core 3 GHz Xeon chip with 1 GB of memory and a 160 GB disk; this price is a lot lower than the cost of the 7310-CR4 HMC that IBM announced last March, which cost a staggering $3,800.
Interestingly, IBM said last week that it will stop selling the Thin Console for System i, which is a 525-style systems management tool that eliminated the need for the Hardware Management Console in single-instance i5/OS environments with up to four Linux partitions. This new thin console, dubbed the 9944 Model 100, was announced in the summer of 2006, also eliminated the need for a twinax-attached 5250 terminal to act as a system console on a System i box. The thin console, which was made by thin client provider Neoware, plugged into the HMC port, and it cost $699. IBM pulls the plug on the thin console on July 8.
Why the HMC is not a $500 device using an embedded PowerPC processor and about the size of a video cassette is beyond me.
Finally, the Power Systems announcement bonanza also included the requisite product withdrawals. First and foremost, the eServer iSeries 520 and 570 boxes, based on Power5 processors, and the Power6-based System i 570 (9406-MMA) servers are being withdrawn from IBM’s product catalog starting on July 8. That’s two months after the new Power6-based Power 520 and Power 550 machines will be delivered to the market as well as the unified Power 570, which is essentially the System p 570 from last year (9117-MMA) with a bunch of System i 570 (9406-MMA) features moved over. IBM is also killing off the optical High Speed Link (HSL) adapter cards on December 1, as well as new sales of memory, processor, and other features as well as feature conversions in these older machines. On February 1, 2009, IBM will stop selling older 15K RPM SCSI disk drives used in earlier Power5 and Power5+ machines; IBM has SAS and SCSI disks to replace these models.
If you haven’t gotten the idea, the Power5 and Power5+ product lines are dead, in an economic sense. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t buy one if you get a deal on one, but the point is, make sure you get a pretty hefty discount from your reseller or from IBM if you buy one.