Sundry July Power Systems Announcements
July 28, 2008 Timothy Prickett Morgan
One quarter has ended, and another has begun, and it being summer and all, now is the traditional time when IBM has done some nipping and tucking in its System i and System p product catalogs. Just because we are all one big, happy Power Systems family doesn’t mean that such traditions are now done for. In fact, last week, Big Blue made a few tweaks to the products in the Power Systems lineup.
None of these announcements are huge issues, but if you are in the middle of a Power Systems acquisition, these changes are still significant.
First of all, IBM last week added a new internal SAS-based tape drive as an option for Power 520 and Power 550 servers. This new drive, which is a half-height unit as the two existing drives are, is feature 5619, and it is an 80 GB DAT160 SAS tape drive that costs $1,661. It has more than twice the capacity of the existing 36 GB DAT72 SAS drive (feature 5907, which costs $1,150), and is much less expensive than the third internal tape drive available for these machines, the 800 GB LTO-4 SAS drive (feature 5746), which costs $3,777. The new higher-density DAT tape drive uses denser 4mm tape cartridges but also supports the earlier 36 GB cartridges. With data compression on average data, it can cram 160 GB onto a single tape. According to IBM, that LTO-4 drive was added as an option to the i Editions of Power 520 (9407-M15 and 9408-M25) and the Power 550 (9409-M50) back in May 2008, but the company did not put out an announcement letter about this. So if you haven’t heard of this machine, now you know why.
Customers have to use the feature 5912 PCI-X SAS adapter card to link SAS disk or tape drives to these Power System boxes, and i, AIX, and Linux all support this hardware. You might have never heard of this adapter, but I will explain about that now. The 5912 PCI-X dual-data rate x4 SAS adapter was announced for AIX and Linux Edition machinery earlier this year, and is now supported with the i 6.1 operating system. The feature 5912 SAS adapter does not have write cache, which means you have to use it carefully, but it can support up to 48 SAS disk drives housed in feature 5886 EXP 12S disk drawers. The adapter supports RAID 1 disk mirroring, but does not have RAID 5 or RAID 6 data protection. (IBM really wants customers to mirror disks and controllers in the i environments, anyway.) With the original April announcements, only one feature 5886 EXP 12S drawer was supported on the i Edition M25 and M50 boxes, but with the feature 5912 SAS adapter, multiple disk drawers can be attached to these boxes. This adapter first showed up in the Power 570 (9117-MMA) and Power 595 (9119-FHA) machines running AIX and Linux and is being cast down lower into the line and being giving i support on these boxes. Feature 5912 costs $825.
IBM also rejiggered the i Edition M15 and M25 Express configurations a little. The 9407-M15 1-Way Growth Express Edition (feature 6725) now comes with five freebie users, but now customers have to buy a machine with 4 GB of main memory, four SAS drives, and a 175 MB write cache for the drives (feature 5679). There is no change to the user counts on the 1-Way Entry Express Edition (feature 6721). On the 9408-M25 1/2-Way 150 User Express Edition, IBM is giving away 10 of those 150 user entitlements for free as part of the package. In the configurations announced in April, IBM required a minimum of 30 users to be activated, and then counted on customers to add up the users. Now, you have to pay for 140 user activations–no cheating–but IBM is tossing in 10 users (worth $2,500 in aggregate) for free. This machine also comes with a 30-user and unlimited user edition, which are features 6761 and features 6763, respectively.
To help out existing customers who are not necessarily going to buy a new box this year, IBM added support for its 141 GB 15K RPM SCSI disk drives in the System i 515 (9407-515, technically) and for iSeries 9406 series machines bearing 800, 810, 825, 870, and 890 model designations. The i515 has two sets of four disk bays, and customers can mix and match 70 GB and 141 GB SCSI disks in the same units. Customers cannot plug the 141 GB disks directly into the iSeries 8XX boxes, but customers can plug them into I/O towers and drawers, including feature 5094, 5294, 0595, 5095, and 5786 units. You will remember, of course, that IBM said earlier this year that it would be killing off 70 GB and 282 GB SCSI disk drives in February 2009 but would continue to support 141 GB SCSI units for legacy machines. These 141 GB disks cost $1,299 a piece, compared to $999 for 70 GB disks and $2,799 for 282 GB disks. The 282 GB disks are just too expensive, especially among shops where disk arm count is more important than capacity.
IBM also last week cut prices on two of its TotalStorage tape products: the 3580s, a series of LTO-3 units, and the 3573s, a line of LTO-3 and LTO-4 drives with autoloaders. The price changes are as follows, and are effective as of July 22:
As you can see, the price changes are pretty significant on these Ultrium LTO drives, and that is because of the competition among various LTO tape drive providers. In the System p and System i spaces in particular, GST has been keeping the pricing heat on Big Blue in the tape space for years, and even after IBM’s price cuts, GST can offer competitive pricing if you want to add an Ultrium tape drive to your server.
IBM also said last week that the two Fibre Channel adapters running on Power Systems with i 6.1 now support more tape drives. Back in April, these adapters supported the attachment of 3592, 3584 (also known as the TS3500 for some inexplicable reason), and 3494 tapes. At the end of September, the 3573 tapes (also known as the TS3100 and TS3200) will be supported on these Fibre Channel adapters with PTFs for i 6.1 on Power6-based machinery. IBM will eventually support the use of these Fibre Channel adapters with the 3576 (TS3310), 3577 (TS3400), and 3580 (TS2340 and TS2240) units, and specifically, IBM expects to provide this support in the fourth quarter.
Finally, IBM is removing a Wide Area Network (WAN) adapter from Power6-based machines. Since the advent of the Electronic Customer Support system for the AS/400 two decades ago, IBM has required a modem and then a WAN link to machines to provide tech support. But with the Power6 boxes, IBM is offering linkage to its support system, which is nicknamed “Piranha” apparently, over LAN adapters and, if need be, over the communication adapter built into the Hardware Management Console, which is used to setup and configure hypervisors on Power-based servers. Accordingly, IBM is no longer adding a WAN adapter to base machines, which means if you need one, you are going to end up paying for it. A two-line WAN adapter costs $565 and a two-line WAN adapter with a modem built in costs $585.