IBM Chops Power Systems Memory Prices After Chip Upgrade
June 17, 2013 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Big Blue has had a busy couple of weeks making enhancements to the Power Systems lineup and crafting deals to try to entice customers to move up to more modern machines, or, in the case of IBM i shops, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the launch of the AS/400 platform. The AS/400’s silver anniversary will be on Friday this week, and I will share my thoughts on the Silver Anniversary for the system that was code-named “Silverlake” in next week’s issue. For now, let’s talk about memory enhancements at the high-end of the line.
The big thing relating to Power Systems this time around, in announcement letter 113-087, was focused on changes IBM made to memory cards, activations, and pricing on its high-end machines.
Specifically, IBM is launching a new line of memory cards for the Power 795 machine that are based on 4 Gb DDR3 memory chips instead of the 2 Gb DDR3 chips used in prior generation of cards. While the chips are twice as dense in terms of their memory capacity, IBM is not tweaking the capacity of individual cards, which is steady at 32 GB, 64 GB, 128 GB, and 256 GB. What this does mean, however, is that it takes half as much chippery to populate a memory card for these machines, and that means they burn less juice and create less heat. They may or may not be more profitable for IBM. Probably not, given the fact that IBM has also slashed prices on the new 4 Gb memory cards and activations for that memory, as shown here:
On its high-end Power Systems, you will recall that IBM doesn’t just charge one price for the memory card and you are done. IBM populates the card with all the memory that fits on it for a given capacity, and you pay a set amount for this card. Then you pay an additional fee to either permanently or temporarily activate memory one gigabyte at a time on that card. As you can see from the table above, IBM has really chopped the base card prices except on the densest cards, which allow for the Power 795 to support up to 16TB of memory across its 32 sockets, 256 cores, and 1,024 threads. These are very dramatic price changes, even for an IBM that is hot to trot to get Power Systems customers to spend money. The memory activation price cuts are not as stellar, but they are designed to get memory pricing for the Power 795–which is not going to get a Power7+ refresh–in line with the Power 770+ and Power 780+ enterprise-class machines that came out last fall with Power7+ processors and doubled up main memory.
Customers with existing Power 795s were no doubt complaining that those customers were getting a better deal on memory, and IBM has fixed that issue. When you add up the effect of the two sets of price changes on a typical scenario, it is still a good deal. Take a 128 GB card, for instance. Activate 64 GB on it and leave 64 GB to be activated on demand when workloads get heavy. It works out to about a 50 percent discount to permanently activate that 64GB of memory compared to the prior cards.
You know what I am going to say next. If you buy old cards based on the 2 Gb chips or are activating memory based on the 2 Gb chips that you already have in your system, demand the new, lower price even though you don’t have the new 4 Gb chips. In case you are wondering, you can mix and match the new and old memory in the Power 795s inside the same server and on the same processor book, but you can’t mix them on the same Power7 socket.
If you have a Power6-based Power 595 machine, IBM is allowing for memory conversions to either type of memory card–those based on 2 Gb chips or 4 Gb chips–if you upgrade to a Power 795 machine. Obviously it makes a lot of sense to move to the newer, denser cards unless IBM is willing to cut a special deal to lower the memory costs on the older cards. In theory, the market should push those prices down below the new cards because they are less desirable.
Another change in the memory for the high-end machines is that IBM is adding a 100-day billing option for capacity on demand for Power 770, 770+, 780, 780+, and 795 machines, which gives you a maximum of 99,990 GB-days per order. IBM is also allowing 100 GB and 256 GB activation features so you can fire up memory on demand quickly.
IBM has tweaked its configurators to make it easier for customers who are using Active Memory Mirroring on Power 770 machines to move those mirroring features over to a new Power 770+ machine that will preserve the system’s serial number.
Big Blue made a slew of I/O adapter card and storage array enhancements as part of its latest Power Systems tweakfest, and I will go through those in next week’s issue.