More Details on the Entry Power7 Rollout
July 26, 2010 Timothy Prickett Morgan
I told you last week that five new Power7-based systems–four small ones and the big iron Power 795 boxes–were coming out on August 17. It didn’t take long for people to start helping me put together a little more of the launch plans for the remainder of the Power7 rollout for 2010. It was kinda funny how the veil kept lifting a bit higher and higher as the week went on.
We already knew that there were four machines plus the Power 795. I had been guessing there would be an entry box, the Power 705 in a 1U chassis, a slightly bigger box, the Power 710 in a 2U chassis, plus the expected Power 720 (basically a Power 750 cut in half, but in the same 4U chassis), and then maybe a Smart Cube appliance variant of one of these machines. Best I can figure, I got a lot of that wrong. But I was just guessing then. In this story, there are a lot fewer guesses and a lot more real details.
After reading my story from last week guessing rather strongly that these machines were the subject of two different IBM Webcasts held on the 17th, several people with specific knowledge of IBM‘s plans independently confirmed that this was indeed the Power7 server launch date and the big box was indeed to be called the Power 795.
Another source sent me some information about a Power Systems 720 and 740 early support program that was set up recently for business partners to get their hands on boxes ahead of launch running either i 6.1.1 or i 7.1 to gauge the readiness of the hardware for production workloads. These early machines were made available for the i customer base only, according to the source, which was interesting to me. I don’t know when the early support program was launched, but I can tell you that it was oversubscribed as of July 21 and that IBM expected to ship participants boxes in August, that the machines would be generally available in the third quarter, and that early users had to do lots of paperwork telling IBM how the machines were doing through October.
It wasn’t hard to guess one entry machine would be called the Power 720, but now we know there is also something called a Power 740. Hmm.
Then I got a two sentence email from someone else in the know: “710, 720, 730, 740. That is all.”
The someone else who had been briefed by IBM about the five remaining Power7-based machines confirmed these five names. And they spilled a few more details. The Power 720, like the Power 520 it replaces, will come in a rack or tower configuration with either one or two processor sockets. It is not clear how much memory it will support, but my guess is half of a Power 750, or 256 GB. If I were IBM, I would be using as many quad-core and six-core variants of the Power7 chips (which have eight cores in total, but not all of them work in every chip that comes off the line) and as many chips above 2.5 GHz or higher that functioned in the Power 710 and 720 machines.
It looks like the Power 720 and Power 740 will use the same basic 4U chassis as the Power 750, but will use larger 3.5-inch and cheaper disks because of the budget constraints of SMB customers. The Power 710 and 730 will use a 2U chassis and are aimed at “data center” customers who want density, and it looks like these machines will use 2.5-inch disks and quite possibly 1.8-inch disks. I am guessing all of the machines will support a mix of disk and flash drives, but the Power 710 and Power 730 will probably be big on the flash. And maybe customers deploying flash will be able to add more cores and crank up the clocks because of the heat they save moving to disks.
While there are expected to be i Solution Edition variants of some of these entry machines (possibly on the Power 720 and 740 machines, and one source said with a fixed number of users in the price like earlier Solution Edition machines), no one has seen hide nor hair of a Smart Cube based on any Power7 server. The fact that IBM withdrew the three Power6-based Smart Cubes two weeks ago does not bode well for this appliance packaging of the i platform.
If you put a gun to my head, I would guess that Power 710 and Power 720 machines had a single Power7 processor socket with 128 GB of memory and that Power 730 and Power 740 machines had two sockets with 256 GB of memory.
Just a reminder about the IBM Webcasts on August 17:
If I learn more between now and then, I will let you know in the August 9 issue. We’re taking an IT Jungle summer break next week. If you know different from what I am saying above, you know how to reach me. And many thanks to all of you who are helping me puzzle out the announcements.