The i Edition of the BladeCenter S Finally Launches
May 19, 2008 Timothy Prickett Morgan
IBM has been talking up the single-socket, dual-core JS12 Power6-based blade server and its BladeCenter S wall-powered blade server chassis pretty hard in recent months, and beginning on May 30, the company will start shipping the so-called i Edition Express prebundled and discounted version of this machinery expressly for supporting the new i 6.1 operating system and its RPG and COBOL workloads.
This will be the first blade server that actually meets the needs of the vast majority of the OS/400 and i5/OS server installed base, with last fall’s two-socket, four-core JS22 blade server being wicked overkill for i shops that generally have only one core dedicated to OS/400 and i5/OS workloads today–and running on cores that have a lot less oomph than the current 4 GHz Power6 cores used in the JS22 blade or the 3.8 GHz cores used in the JS12 blade.
The JS12 blade has a rating of 7,100 CPWs on the Commercial Performance Workload benchmark test that IBM uses to gauge the relative performance of the AS/400, iSeries, System i servers and now i-based Power Systems machines. This is a maximum theoretical performance that assumes that 20 percent of one of the processor cores is running the Virtual I/O Server disk and peripheral virtualization server that IBM originally created for AIX and that is a prerequisite for running i 6.1 on either the JS12 or JS22 blade servers. (IBM went virtual rather than writing native drivers for i 6.1 for the various SAS drives and controllers and Fibre Channel adapters needed for storage subsystems.) The JS22 is rated at 13,800 CPWs with 30 percent of one of the four Power6 cores running the VIOS software. The JS12 is in the P05 software tier and the JS22 was been bumped down into the P10 software tier as part of the March 29 announcements after some complaining from customers; it was previously in the P20 tier, which made it out of reach for SMB shops who cannot afford to shell out extra money to their application software providers just because they are moving to blades.
The i Edition Express for BladeCenter S is a bundled offering that does not include the JS22 blade, but rather just the JS12 blade. You get the BladeCenter S chassis (7779-BCS) and you have to configure it with oen ultraslim CD/DVD drive, a six-disk storage module (the chassis supports up to two of these), a SAS connectivity module, a copper passthru module and cable, two 146 GB, 15K RPM disks, and two power cords. The chassis also includes a single JS12 blade with both processor cores activated, 2 GB of main memory, two 146 GB, 10K RPM SAS drives on the disk (it only has room for two), a SAS expansion card (for linking to the SAS expansion module), a license for two cores worth of the PowerVM Standard Edition hypervisor (which is where VIOS lives), and a license for i 6.1 on one (but not both) of the cores on the JS12 blade and licenses for 10 end users.
The SAS expansion modules can also use 300 GB SAS drives, which means up to 3.9 TB of disk capacity can be put into a single chassis. Other blades–such as Xeon or Opteron blades running Windows or Linux–can share this storage alongside i 6.1. The BladeCenter S chassis can house up to six blades, so there is plenty of expansion room, but that is all you get because of the 110/120 volt wall power supply that the unit has. The JS12 blade has eight 533 MHz DDR2 main memory slots and supports up to 64 GB using 8 GB DIMMs; such dense memory is wickedly expensive–like five times as expensive as 2 GB DIMMs–and will not be adopted by many i shops. IBM is putting two 1 GB DIMMs into this configuration, which is the cheapest DDR2 memory on the market.
Because IBM doesn’t want to make it easy for customers to shop without talking to a reseller, the company has not yet provided the official list price for this i Edition bundle, but sources tell me that the target price for the i Edition Express for BladeCenter S bundle is expected to sell for around $13,000, with about $2,000 shaved off the price for the bundle. (Meaning the individual components cost around $15,000 and IBM is shaving around 13 points off the price at the street level.)
The goal, as IBM has said throughout the Power Systems launch this year, is to give performance and price parity between a JS12 blade in a BladeCenter S chassis and a Power 520 server with two Power6 cores activated and one of them running i 6.1. I’ll be putting together price comparisons of configured Power Systems machines in the coming weeks to see how true this is. In the meantime, I would remind you of the Power Systems: The Feeds and Speeds article I did two weeks ago and of the salient characteristics table I put together with feature and performance information.
While the i Edition version of the JS12 bundle is shipping on May 30, the airborne contaminant filter for the chassis, which keeps out dirt, dust, and other junk out of the fans, will not ship until June 13.