Power Enterprise Pools Make CPU Activations Mobile
October 14, 2013 Timothy Prickett Morgan
As part of the October Power Systems announcements, IBM is allowing for core activations to move easily across a group of machines. This new feature, called Power Enterprise Pools, is only aimed at high-end machines, but a credible argument can be made that it should be available on all Power-based systems.
IBM has allowed for customers with multiple big Power Systems machines to work with its tech support organization to allow for processor activations to be transferred from one box to another with a complex manual process, Steve Sibley, director of worldwide product management for IBM’s Power Systems, explains. But with the Power Enterprise Pools, this process is now automated. Moreover, pricing has been formalized so customers can move between machines with different processor speeds. Obviously, faster processors cost more, so if you move to a faster processor, you have to pay IBM an incremental fee to do so. Generally speaking, this incremental fee is on the order of 5 percent of the cost of a processor activation, and in many cases, the performance different between cores can be higher than that.
As you can see in announcement letter 113-178, the whole idea is to pay for this mobility capability ahead of time and then you never have to get Big Blue involved again. The Enterprise Pools will be available on Power7-based Power 795 servers starting on December 6, and will require the Hardware Management Console to have its firmware upgraded to the V7R7 8.0 level. On April 25 next year, IBM will make Enterprise Pools available on Power 770+ and Power 780+ machines using the Power7+ processors. If you have earlier Power7-based Power 770 and Power 780 machines, you can’t splash in the pool. All of these machines will require machine code firmware at the 7.8.0 level or higher to do the pooling. You can take a static processor core activation and convert it to a mobile one for pooling by paying an incremental fee, and you have to notify IBM if you put a machine into a pool or take it out even if you don’t have to notify Big Blue if you move core activations around a pool of machines.
One of the uses for Enterprise Pools, says Sibley, is to allow customers to do upgrades in a more fluid fashion. Because the Power7+ machines will be upgradeable to Power8 processors, you will be able to use Enterprise Pools as part of the system upgrade process, as shown above. IBM is therefore encouraging customers with Power7-based Power 770 and 780 boxes to move up to Power7+ versions and then get themselves ready for the jump to Power8 machines sometime next year.
Here’s what I want to know: Why isn’t there capacity upgrade on demand on all Power-based servers, and therefore Enterprise Pools on the entire Power Systems line? Everything that makes Enterprise Pools useful for high-end customers would also be useful for customers using entry and midrange machines. If the circuitry and microcode for doing capacity upgrade on demand and Enterprise Pools can be used in these machines, I would argue that it should be.