Various Power Systems I/O and Storage Enhancements
October 26, 2009 Timothy Prickett Morgan
While the i 6.1.1 interim operating system release and the future i 6.2/7.1 major release was the Power Systems i news as part of the quarterly Dynamic Infrastructure announcements from IBM, there were a bunch of storage and networking announcements that are probably equally important to i shops.
First up, a patch for i 6.1 and the new i 6.1.1 interim release supports the feature 5903 SAS disk controller that was announced back on April 28 for AIX and Linux operating systems, fulfilling a statement of direction to support this controller on the i platform. Feature 5903 is a SAS RAID adapter that has 380 MB of write cache and that plugs into a PCI-Express x4 slot; it can support 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch SAS drives, and it takes up two PCI slots because it has mirrored caches on a secondary card. Feature 5903 costs $2,199 on smaller Power Systems, but costs $2,910 on larger machines. The feature 5309 controller can plug into the feature 5802 and 5803 PCI-Express 12X I/O drawers and used in conjunction with Power6 or Power6+ machines.
According to Craig Johnson, the i/OS product manager in the Power Systems division at IBM, the company has taken redundancy to the next step for disk arrays within the Power Systems i platform. RAID 5 provides data protection for disks, and disk mirroring allows two adapters with two sets of disks to have replicated sets of data. Now, with i 6.1.1, IBM is allowing two SAS RAID adapters to be paired up in an active-active or active-passive cluster, feeding into one RAID 5 disk set. This functionality is only enabled on the feature 5903 SAS RAID card (outlined above) and the PCI-X 1,5GB cache SAS adapter that was announced in April (that’s features 5904, 5906, or 5908, depending on the Power Systems model). The paired controllers in a clustered controller set can be in different I/O drawers, increasing the odds that a failure doesn’t take out the disks.
IBM has also put out three new small form factor (2.5-inch) SAS disk drives for Power Systems machines, which come in 139 GB, 146 GB, and 300 GB capacities. The 139 GB disk, feature 1888, spins at 15K RPM and is supported by the i operating system; it costs $798. The 146 GB disk, feature 1886, is formatted for AIX or Linux and spins at 15K RPM as well; it also costs $798. There is also a new 300 GB disk that spins at 10K RPM, feature 1885, which is only available for AIX and Linux systems or partitions and which costs $1,050. These drives can be plugged into the server chasses for Power6 and Power6+ versions of the Power Systems lineup.
For companies that need to add a lot of peripheral cards but not disk drives, IBM has kicked out a new feature 5877 PCI-Express 12X I/O drawer, which joins the feature 5802 (used with entry and midrange Power Systems) and feature 5803 (used with Power 595s and the Power 575 supercomputer node) drawers. The feature 5802 drawer has room for 18 small form factor drives, but feature 5877 just gives the 10 I/O slots. The feature 5877 I/O drawer costs $9,900. The feature 5802 drawer has the 10 I/O slots plus room for 18 drives, and costs $14,426. So this can be big savings for i shops that just need to add peripherals other than disks.
Finally, IBM also announced a new converged network adapter for Power Systems that allows for Ethernet network traffic and Fibre Channel storage traffic to be run over the same adapter card, using so-called Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE) capabilities and the Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) protocol. IBM and its switch partners have been putting together a portfolio of FCoE-enabled 10 Gigabit Ethernet switches, and the feature 5708 card is how you link the Power Systems machine to such switches. It costs $4,154.
All of these new I/O options will be available on October 30.