IBM Puts On A Very Slick Power7+ Web Event
February 11, 2013 Timothy Prickett Morgan
As an IT journalist, I have to sit through more webcasts, interviews, and presentations than most of you have to sit through meetings. Some people put on a better show than others, and what I can tell you about the Webcast that the Power Systems division put together last Tuesday is by far the slickest thing I have seen in a long time. We’re talking Hollywood production values here, and to be honest, I was a bit surprised.
If you didn’t catch the webcast for the February 5 announcements, you can catch the replay here, and it was a visually interesting event. The webcast did not convey a lot of information–give me an ivory letter, a data sheet, the business partner briefing deck, and a redbook any day and I can learn much more about any Power System in the same time that it took to do the presentations last Tuesday. But there are some bits of information that you can only get by sitting through these events, and they have subtle clues that tell you some things you might not otherwise pick up on.
The first thing is that IBM’s Power Systems division spent a bit of money on this webcast, or seemed to. It was not a live event, so it was very polished. And interestingly, while all four speakers were talking on stage, animated graphics, looking like something out of the Star Trek Next Generation bridge, were whirling and flashing on the black curtains of the stage, visually reinforcing what each speaker was saying. I found it absolutely distracting and fascinating, and I suspect I was being programmed with subliminal images of god only knows what. Crushed X86 machines with Dell and Hewlett-Packard, I suspect.
The second thing I noticed is that Power Systems general manager Colin Parris talked about Power Systems in general and how the Power chip is pervasive. This was not just an AIX event, and it looks like Big Blue might have figured out that its IBM i base is as important to revive as the AIX base is to maintain if the Power Systems business is to maintain against the X86 onslaught. And just maybe gain a little lost ground. Power-based iron is not only in the servers we use to run IBM i and AIX and their business applications and databases, Parris explained, but Power chips are also in the most powerful supercomputers in the world and in the Mars Rover.
(He did not mention that if the rumors are correct then the Power chip is about to get the boot out of the Sony PlayStation, with the PS4 console coming later this month expected to use X86 processors and GPUs from Advanced Micro Devices. You can’t blame him for no pre-announcing Sony’s rumored platform choice.)
What was subtly clear from the presentation by Parris is that the Power 710+ and Power 730+ rack servers were aimed at AIX and Linux shops, while the Power 720+ and Power 740+ machines were aimed at IBM i workloads.
“Our new Power Express Servers–like the Power 720 and 740–are perfect for helping midsize businesses drive business growth and efficiency,” Parris said in the presentation. “They have low entry costs and very flexible configuration options. They feature Power7+, expandable I/O, and support for solid state disk.”
Parris also gave a shout-out to Infor XA, which has its roots in the IBM MAPICS ERP suite for discrete manufacturers, saying that according to early benchmark tests, the new Power 720+ delivered 36 percent more performance running XA than the prior Power7-based Power 720 machine that is the workhorse of the IBM i base.
Pushing IBM i shops toward the Power 720-class machine, with the Power 740-class box as a fallback if the workload is larger, is not a new strategy for Big Blue. I will be looking hard at the Power 710+ and Power 730+ machines, which offer more bang for the buck, to see if these cannot be better options in certain cases for IBM i customers.
The third subtle thing: IBM gave the stage to Nigel Fortlage from GHY International, who just about everybody in IBM i Land knows because he is the poster child for consolidating AIX and Linux workloads onto a system that used to run OS/400 all by its lonesome when it was called the iSeries so many years ago. Fortlage said that by consolidating workloads on Power Systems with PowerVM logical partitions, GHY was able to reduce IT operating costs by 14 percent while doubling the number of servers under management. This is AS/400-class ease of use in action.
“Our IBM Power Systems solution provides us with the stability, security, scalability, and reliability in both the hardware and the software that other vendors could not deliver,” Fortlage said at the end of his presentation. “I have never had a more resilient server environment than my IBM Power Systems server.”
The fact that there was so much IBM i airtime in this webcast is a good sign, I think. That, more than anything specific anyone said, struck me as the most important bit.