Coming Soon: Entry And Midrange Power7+ Servers
January 28, 2013 Timothy Prickett Morgan
The long-awaited upgrade to the Power7+ processors for entry and midrange rack and tower servers looks to be on the horizon and moving toward us fast. IBM is gearing up for its next Smarter Computing launch event, which will be on February 5. And the circumstantial evidence and the word on the street both point to a Power Systems launch. This is not exactly a surprise to anyone, of course.
I was able to ferret out plenty of details about the Power7+ processors months ahead of when Big Blue started talking about them at the Hot Chips 24 semiconductor conference last summer. (See below for all my related stories about the Power7+ chips and how they might impact system design.) And in October last year, the eight-core, accelerated Power7+ chips, which are implemented in IBM’s 32 nanometer copper/SOI processes, debuted in the Power 770+ and Power 780+ enterprise-class systems, and while IBM said at the time that there would be no other Power Systems machines using the Power7+ launched in 2012, in November it became clear that PureSystems is not under the Power Systems brand or control when the PureSystems people launched the Flex p260+ two-socket server node using the Power7+ chip for the modular system.
IBM is not precise about what it is planning to announce on February 5, as you can see:
But you can infer a lot from the Smarter Computing event being held at 11 a.m. that day, which you can sign up for here.
For one thing, it is being hosted by Colin Parris, general manager of IBM’s Power Systems division within Systems and Technology Group. So we know there are Power Systems machines of some kind coming just because of this. And given that Laura Guio, who is the vice president and storage business line executive within STG, is also on the webcast for the February 5 launch, we also know that there will be some kind of storage announcements. We can also infer that because long-time OS/400 and IBM i customer Nigel Fortlage, vice president of information technology at GHY International, will be on the webcast that they will at least be spending some time talking about the IBM i side of the Power Systems house.
I have done a bit more poking around, and the scuttlebutt is that IBM is going to refresh the entry and midrange line of Power Systems machines, which includes the Power 710+, Power 720+, Power 730+, Power 740+, and Power 750+ boxes. (I will continue to add a plus to the names to designate that these machines sport the Power7+ processors, as some IBM documents have been doing. This is smart.) I am also hearing that the PowerLinux Linux-only boxes, which come in rack form with one or two Power processors or in a modular server for the PureSystems machines with two processors, will also get refreshed with Power7+ chips. And, as I expected, there will be a box called the Power 760+ and I do expect, as I have said, that like the Power 560 before it, this machine will feature two whole processors per socket and will therefore be able to put 32 cores in a two-socket box.
I am also hearing that there will be an update to the PureApplication System based on the new Power7+ chips, tighter integration between the Storwize V3700 disk array and Power-based server nodes, and updates to both AIX 7.1 and IBM i 7.1.
I am not hearing that IBM is adding Power7+ processors to its PS7XX blade servers, but it could happen this year. And I am similarly not hearing about a baby PureSystems machine like the one I think the SMB market needs, but there is still time to make me and potential customers happy here in 2013.
With the IBM i market heavily dependent on machines in the Power 720, Power 740, and Power 750 classes, I am just happy that it looks like these machines are coming out now rather than later this fall. If this all turns out to be true–and I am reasonably confident this is indeed what IBM will announce–it is an indication not only that IBM has better Power7+ yields than you might expect, but that Big Blue understands that it has a small window between now and the time Intel launches its next-generation “Ivy Bridge” Xeon E5 v2 processors for machines with two and four sockets in the second half of 2013. IBM seems to want to compete with X86 iron with Power, and all of its channel support and channel expansion in recent months is as much a part of that as is getting new iron into the field so it can be deployed to win deals.