Entry Power7+ Servers: How IBM Sees The Deal
March 18, 2013 Timothy Prickett Morgan
We’ve been going through the feeds and speeds, slots and watts, and dollars and sense of the new entry Power7+ processors to help you sort out what machines might be in your future and what kind of dough you will have to come up with to get there. It takes lots of points of view to make a proper landscape, and this week, I’ll take a look into the analysis that IBM has done for business partners to give them a starting point when they are peddling the new Power7+ entry servers to customers.
The Power 710+ and Power 730+ machines are, as we have been discussing, more densely packed in their 2U enclosures. IBM did not put out a 1U Power 705+, but it could at some point if enough customers required a dense-packed pizza box server. It did have a Power 505 and 505+ in the Power6 and Power6+ generation of machines in an effort to pursue Power-Linux shops, but this time around, IBM seems content to peddle 2U PowerLinux machines, which have lower processing, memory, and disk drive costs compared to plain-vanilla Power Systems machines, which can run AIX or IBM i in addition to Linux from Red Hat and SUSE Linux. This chart kind of wraps up the positioning between the 2U Power 710+ and Power 730+ systems versus more expandable 4U Power 720+ and Power 740+ systems:
The interesting bit in that chart for me is the ISV and application count. Back when the AS/400 business peaked in the late 1990s, just as it was about to be transformed into the iSeries by ex-CEO Sam Palmisano as he took over Big Blue, the company had about 8,500 software partners and something on the order of 28,000 individual applications certified on OS/400. And today, as you add up IBM i, AIX, and Linux applications and partners on the modern Power Systems, the base is still smaller than the AS/400 ecosystem was back then. I am not surprised by this, and it just goes to show how entrenched Windows on X86 servers have become in the enterprise in the past 15 years.
Here’s how IBM reckons the new Power7+ entry machines rank over their entry Power7 system predecessors:
Those comparisons are based on IBM’s rPerf relative performance metrics for AIX and U.S. list prices, presumably for preconfigured Express setups. The rPerf metric for AIX is a variant of the TPC-C online transaction processing benchmark test, just like the Commercial Processing Workload (CPW) benchmark that is used to gauge performance on OS/400 and IBM i workloads. So your mileage will vary on CPW, but it will generally track on entry and midrange systems.
Here’s another foil to make it clear how to keep the 2U and 4U entry machines straight in your head:
Just in case you didn’t notice, if you want a tower server–the equivalent of a data center for a lot of SMB shops–then the Power 720+ is your one and only option. Once again, the 2U boxes are being pitched at basic web infrastructure workloads and are priced to compete against similar Xeon E5-2600 iron, while the 4U boxes are aimed at customers needing a database server or an ERP box with more memory and storage expansion.
This handy little table shows how IBM wants its reseller and software partners to position the various machines against prior Power-based boxes and their RISC/Unix and X86 alternatives:
In this case, IBM is explaining how the entry and the midrange Power7+ machines are positioned against their predecessors and alternatives. If you are an IBM i shop on an earlier Power6 or Power6+ box with a single processors socket, then the Power 720+ is your box, and it is also the one IBM wants to pitch as an alternative to the Power 710+ and Power 730+ in deals against X86 iron if memory, disk, and I/O expandability are important. IBM is pitching the Power 740+ as a downgrade option for customers with older Power 550 midrange boxes. The bigger Power 750+ machines are being pitched against their Unix alternatives from Oracle running Solaris and from Hewlett-Packard running HP-UX, and both the Power 750+ and the fatter Power 760+ are being positioned as an alternative to earlier Power 570 boxes and as a consolidation box for a bunch of smaller Power5 through Power6+ boxes.
This chart paints a similar picture for the four entry Power7+ boxes:
I keep thinking as I read this that I wish all of the machines were priced to target X86 machines, as IBM puts it, and all of the same expandability and aggressive processor feature pricing that is in the Power 710+ and Power 730+ were available in the Power 720+ and Power 740+ machines. The good news, as I have shown in the past few weeks, is that IBM is only charging a slight premium on the four-core Power 720+ relative to the Power 710+ when you load up IBM i on it. But still, I think that IBM should charge the premium for the chassis, not the processor feature card and processor core activations. That is just another kind of tax on IBM i customers who need I/O expandability. It is almost enough to drive customers to external SAN arrays with flash acceleration attached to Power 710+ and Power 730+ iron.
And that may, in fact, be the intent. Either way, you will pay. The question is, what is the cheapest SAN storage that can run natively on IBM i 7.1 and attach to the Power 710+ machine. And the next question I have for you is why you can’t cluster two Power 710+ machines, each in a P05 software tier, in an active-active cluster across the SAN instead having one bigger eight-core P10 box which costs a lot more money. The savings could be substantial, even with clustering software and you get a more resilient system to boot.
Resellers are also being asked to pursue upgrades as well as new system sales, and the Power 520 machines using Power6 processors running at 4.2 GHz and 4.7 GHz, which deliver around 4,300 CPWs and 4,750 CPWs of oomph per core, respectively. The new Power7+ chips spinning at 3.6 GHz deliver 28,400 CPWs across four cores, or something on the order of 7,100 CPWs per core, so even with a big clock speed drop, all that extra cache and the much-better Power7+ core will deliver 50 to 65 percent more OLTP performance per core. This is a big jump in value, obviously. Even the older Power7 processors running at 3 GHz in the Power 720s, delivering around 6,000 CPWs per core, will beat those old Power 520 and even older System i M15 and M25 boxes by somewhere between 26 to 40 percent more OLTP oomph per core.
With the Power 720s being three years old, and these other Power6 boxes in the Power 520 class being as much as five years old, these are the obvious candidates for an upgrade. And IBM will, as usual, be explaining that maintenance is a lot cheaper on the new boxes than on the older ones, such as in a promotional effort for BPs that IBM is calling Blue Sweep. When you add in lower power consumption of the Power 720+ compared to the Power 520, the numbers can be quiet large over a 36-month span:
It is enough to help cover the costs of an upgrade, and you get a much faster system as part of the deal.
We’ll be reaching out to BPs to see what kind of sales pitch they are putting together to get customers to move to new Power7+ entry machines, including the four rack and one tower servers as well as the Flex p260+ node in the Flex System chassis.