BladeCenter S Express i Edition Gets a Power7 Upgrade
August 23, 2010 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Since May 2008, IBM has been bundling up different configurations of its Power6-based blade servers with the i5/OS V5R4 and i 6.1 operating system, a slew of features, and giving the whole shebang a discounted price that puts a blade-based i setup closer to the price of an entry Power 520 rack or tower server that is the workhorse of the i market. As part of last week’s Power7 entry and high-end server rollouts, this i Edition Express for BladeCenter S configuration was tweaked to include Power7 blades.
As was the case with the prior i Edition bundles on the BladeCenter S chassis–that’s the small one with room for six blades and suitable for an office environment, not the 14-blade BladeCenter H chassis that is really intended for data centers–customers cannot just use any Power-based blade they want in this bundle. The prior bundle was restricted to the single-socket, dual-core Power6 processor in the JS12 blade server running at 3.8 GHz. Two processors were activated with one processor having an i 6.1 license for 10 users, and IBM tossed in a 4 GB of memory, two 146 GB 10K RPM SAS drives, and a SAS expansion card, plus the BladeCenter S chassis, a six-disk storage module, two 146 GB disks for that, and a bunch of other doo-dads for $13,244, about $2,000 lower than the components as individually purchased. In November 2009, IBM took out a SAS disk module from the JS12-i bundle and popped in two RAID disk controllers and modules for SAS drives, and the price went up to $18,852.
Now that we are in 2010 and IBM is shipping eight-core Power7 processors on the PS700, PS701, and PS702 blades, customers are going to be getting some raw processor upgrades. The PS700 blade, you will remember from its launch in April, has four cores spinning at 3 GHz, each of which yields more oomph on RPG and Java workloads compared to the 3.8 GHz Power6 processor thanks to the embedded DRAM cache that is on the Power7 chip. (The Power4 through Power6+ processors all had off-chip but in-package L3 caches.)
The latest BladeCenter S Express i Edition bundle comes in two flavors, one with a SAS switch module for linking blades to disk modules in the chassis and another that has a RAID-protected SAS switch module. Obviously, the RAID version will cost more.
For the plain vanilla SAS storage version, IBM takes the BladeCenter S chassis and plunks in an ultraslim SATA CD/DVD burner, a six-disk storage module, a SAS connectivity module, a copper pass-thru module, two 146 GB, 15K RPM SAS disks, two 950/1450 watt power supplies, and two power cords. Inside this blade box IBM slides a PS700 Express blade server with two processor entitlements and two freebie processor entitlements (that’s the Express part of the deal) for a total of four activated Power7 cores. The blade gets 8 GB of memory (the Web page says 16 GB, but it is wrong) and two 300 GB disks (again, the Web page says one 300 GB disk, and it is wrong), a 3 Gb/sec SAS pass-thru, and a single processor’s worth of i 6.1.1 or i 7.1 for 10 users and the PowerVM Express Edition hypervisor on all four cores. This setup costs $15,751, or $495 per month on a 36-month lease from IBM Global Services. (Pricing details are here.) The 10-user i 7.1 license will run you $2,500 per user on top of the one core of i 7.1 that is configured onto the blade setup.
If you want to go with RAID data protection on your i blades, then the BladeCenter S Express i Edition puts one six-disk module and two SATA RAID controller modules in the chassis and three 146 GB, 15K RPM disks. The two disk drives on the PS700 blade are removed and the operating system is stored on the RAID SAS modules. The software licensing is exactly the same. Pricing for this configuration was not available as The Four Hundred went to press.
Both variants of the new PS700 BladeCenter S Express i Edition will be available on August 27. You can see IBM’s pretty brochure on the offering here. And the pricing of all of the different Power7 blade servers running i can be found here. As you can see, there are Express configurations using the more powerful PS701 and PS702 blades and the larger BladeCenter H chassis, if you want that.
In a related announcement, IBM has brought the Broadcom 2/4-port Ethernet expansion card for its BladeCenter blade servers back from the dead. This card, feature 8291, is back in the catalog as of August 17 for JS12 and JS22 blade servers (the old Power6 ones) and will be available for the Power6+ JS23 and JS43 blades and the PS700 (single-socket, four-core), PS701 (single-socket, eight-core), and PS702 (two-socket, 16-core) Power7 blade servers starting September 17. This feature will be supported with AIX 6.1 and 7.1 as well as with i 6.1 and i 7.1. It costs $629.