Some Details and Thoughts About Impending Power7 Machines
August 16, 2010 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Well, I put a gun to my own head two weeks ago and guessed that the Power 710 and 720 machines being launched tomorrow would have a single Power7 processor socket with 128 GB of memory and that their companion Power 730 and 740 machines would have two sockets with 256 GB of memory. I guessed wrong, and I know this because IBM briefed resellers last week ahead of the launch (slated for tomorrow morning) and people’s tongues are a-wagging.
As it turns out, the Power 710 and 730 servers are using a 2U chassis that has long been missing from the Power Systems lineup, while the Power 720 and Power 740 will be using the 4U chassis that has been the workhorse of the Power Systems midrange since the Power5 machine debuted five years ago. Just to mix things up a bit, the Power 710 and 720 machines are single-socket boxes, while the Power 730 and 740 box sport two sockets. By comparison, the Power 750 has four sockets, and scales up to 32 cores in total with 512 GB of main memory.
As I go to press, it is not clear what the memory and processor configurations will be on the boxes, but it is reasonable to assume that Big Blue will have a mix of lower clock speeds than it peddles on the Power 750, 770, and 780 machines, dipping well below the 3 GHz level of the slowest Power7 parts currently shipping. I would not be surprised to see a 2.3 GHz and 2.5 GHz Power7 chip with only four cores as the processor options in the Power 710, with processor feature cards with more cores and higher clock speeds also available. I expect the memory configurations to get fatter as you move up from the Power 710 through the Power 740, but it is hard to say how these might land.
I have also heard from sources that the Power 720 and 740 machines will be available in rack or tower configurations, but that the Power 710 and Power 730 machines are rack-only machine and seem intended on chasing very specific infrastructure workloads. Given this, it would be reasonable for IBM to emphasis Linux on these machines, but the company’s AIX Unix variant is also fairly inexpensive on Power Systems boxes and could be made competitive–and should be.
I would also like to see a low-cost i 7.1 license made available on all four of these machines, and would go even further and make sure that the Application Server variant of i 7.1, which does not include a license to the DB2 for i database, is also available for the same price as a bare Linux or AIX license. Why not? Why can’t we encourage customers to use i 7.1 as an application server, particularly when they are allergic to Unix and Linux and much prefer Windows for such workloads. Well, if we had a time machine, we would probably discover that most shops running Windows for applications and infrastructure serving would have preferred for OS/400 to have been competitive 15 years ago and stayed that way. A cheap Application Server license would go a long way toward letting people move back to i 7.1.
It would be fabulous to see Big Blue get very aggressive about hardware and software pricing on these four machines, making new software tiers with low license fees–not $40,000 per core, but neck-and-neck with Microsoft‘s SQL Server plus Windows Server 2008. Instead of $250 per user, IBM needs to drop down to the client access license (CAL) fees Microsoft has per user. As I explained when I compared the Power7-based blade servers–the PS700, PS701, and PS702 blades–to X64-based blades from Hewlett-Packard running Windows and SQL Server, the $14,995 per core fee IBM is charging on the PS701 and PS702 blades is absolutely insane, and if Big Blue just replicates this price to the Power 710 through 740 machines, they will not be competitive. If you tear apart the configurations I looked at in that i-Windows blade configuration from late May, the Windows software stack costs $655 on a small blade setup supporting 10 users and price quickly drops down through $400 and $300 to a low of $219 per user for a 300-user, eight-core blade server.
On the PS700, the i 7.1 license costs only $2,245, plus $250 per user for accessing the operating system and its integrated database. Toss in a license for the PowerVM hypervisor, and you are talking $521 per set for a full systems software stack for 10 users. This is cheaper than the Windows stack. And as you beef up the PS700 with hardware and add users, the cost per user goes down to $340 per user for a 30-user setup. Again, lower than Windows. But once you beef it up to 150 users, the difference between the $250 per-user fee for i 7.1 and the $204 per user for the Windows stack starts causing problems and Windows starts winning. Once you jump to the PS702, that $14,995 per-core license fee for i 7.1 makes the i platform crazy expensive at the software level–how’s over $1,000 per seat grab you on a 40-seat box, compared to $317 for Windows?
And it gets worse. On an eight-core PS702 with 80 users, you are talking nearly $1,800 per user for software–nearly five times the Windows alternative–and on a 16-core PS702 with 80 users, you are up to $3,343 per user for the i 7.1 stack–more than 10 times as expensive as the Windows alternative.
This is either stupid or greedy–or both. No matter what the cause is, these prices are unacceptable to be competitive in the midrange. But someone at IBM has probably decided that it is better to get a lot of money from a few disgruntled customers than get the same money from lots of happy customers. You have to pay for all those stock buybacks somehow, I guess. And when I say “you,” I really mean you.
Unless, of course, IBM has seen the light and has figured out that the entry part of the Power Systems platform, where 95 percent of the i side of the Power Systems house lives, needs a little more variety in features and price than just a Power 720, take it or leave it.
Just a reminder about the IBM Webcasts on August 17:
Look in tomorrow’s edition of Four Hundred Stuff for whatever coverage that we can pull together about the Power7 machines. Detailed analysis will come in next week’s issue of The Four Hundred, as usual. It seems every time IBM‘s Lotus division makes an announcement, some heckler in the crowd shouts out a crack about Notes/Domino users migrating to Microsoft Outlook and Exchange. Last week, two Lotus software announcements came to my attention. One detailed Notes/Domino 8.5.2 and the other LotusLive 1.3. Coincidentally (conspiracy theorists might find fault with that word), a Gartner report on Notes migrations became available. And that lit the fuse on the Lotus powder keg that goes by the name of Ed Brill.
Brill is the director of messaging for the Lotus division and is likely the company’s best known blogger. In his blog, Brill categorized the Gartner report as being based on propaganda created by Microsoft and cocktail party gossip rather than hard evidence. He went on to accuse Gartner of some sleight of hand marketing by presenting this analysis as a way to drum up consulting business.
Gartner’s Tom Austin, the author of the report, points out in his own blog that between July 1, 2009, and April 30, 2010, 116 clients booked one or more calls with Gartner analysts seeking advice on migrating from Notes. And during that same 10-month period, no Microsoft email customers called for advice on migrating to Notes.
“What Gartner sees is not what we see,” Brill says. “Our market share, according to IDC, has been unchanged for the past couple of years. When I look at sales figures and active customers on maintenance, those numbers have been constant and in many cases are growing over the last five years. While in any mature market there’s always migrations, we have replaced customers that have chosen to move away from Notes with new customers. We are always publishing references and new examples of customers such as PNC Bank, Panasonic, and others.”
Leaving the migration brouhaha behind, let’s move on to what’s new in Lotus Notes/Domino 8.5.2.
Mobile access is an important topic at many organizations and discussions sooner or later take into account issues related to security.
The Lotus focus on security, Brill pointed out in his interview with IT Jungle, has resulted in better control of the data on a mobile device. Things like password policies, the amount of data that is received and the amount of time that information can remain on a mobile device, the capability to remotely delete from the device have been addressed in the 8.5.2 release. Thanks specifically to Lotus Notes Traveler, the software connection to e-mails, calendars, and contacts.
Brill says mail service will be improved in 8.5.2 because of multi-threading replication.
Mobile users will also get more device options as Traveler support for the Apple iPad, Apple iOS 4, Windows Mobile 6.5, and the Lotus Notes Traveler server for Linux get picked up.
Domino/Notes 8.5.2 availability is set for August 24 (electronic deliverability) with physical media and documentation coming October 4. Although Brill says the core engine will be supported on all platforms–including IBM i 7.1–from the beginning, confirmation of support for add-on products such as Lotus Quickr and Enterprise Integrator was unavailable by press time.
Domino 8.5.1 runs on IBM i 7.1, but earlier Domino releases do not. Domino 8.5 is compatible with i 6.1 and i 6.1.1. Shops running earlier versions of the operating system should consult the Domino-i compatibility guide.
Also from Lotus last week was the announcement of LotusLive 1.3. In this release, LotusLive adds e-mail services, called LotusLive Notes, to its package. Calendar, scheduling, and contact management applications are included and are deliverable either through the Notes client or a Web browser.
LotusLive is IBM’s version of collaboration in the cloud. When managing your onsite messaging infrastructure has driven you up the wall, LotusLive is designed to calm you down by taking over the e-mail, file sharing, and other collaboration duties. It is sold as a software and services package. The general availability date is August 24, but no pricing or terms were released.