IBM Enhances Disk And Flash For Power Systems
November 11, 2013 Timothy Prickett Morgan
We are winding down our coverage of the fourth quarter Power Systems platform announcements, and this week we take a look at the substantial enhancements for I/O controllers, disk drives, and flash storage that IBM has made. There is a little something for everybody in here.
First up are two new flash-based solid state drives that weigh in at 387 GB and 775 GB capacities. These units come in a 2.5-inch form factor and plug into SAS controllers in the Power Systems machines or their remote I/O drawers that hang off of them. The new devices have twice the I/O operations per second (IOPS) as the current 387 GB units as well as a 40 percent lower latency on data transfers. The 775 GB unit has the same performance as the third-generation 387 GB unit, which means if you are not performance bound, you can now hang half as many drives off a SAS controller and get the same capacity. Conversely, you can hang the same number of drives off the same controller and have twice the capacity and the same IOPS per unit of capacity and still get the lower latency. These are also both based on a third generation of enterprise multi-level cell (eMLC) flash memory.
The new flash drives, as you can see in announcement letter 113-171, are supported on Power 710 through Power 795 systems, and work in machines with both Power7 and Power7+ processors. IBM i 6.1.1 and 7.1; AIX 5.3, 6.1, and 7.1; Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.8 and 6.2; and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 and 11 are all supported on the new flash drives. The 387 GB unit costs $3,588 and the 775 GB unit costs $6,200 on small machines, $4,127 and $7,130 on medium machines, $4,700 and $8,121 on slightly larger machines, and $5,640 and $9,746 on the largest machines, respectively. This price disparity based on machine size is, of course, absolutely silly. After discounts, the prices will be all the same. Oh, wait. . . .
IBM is also tossing in two freebie 387 GB units to customers who buy Power 77+ and Power 780+ machines, which is great. We love that sort of thing. But, IBM should ship all new Power Systems machines with at least one freebie flash drive. Flash is all about accelerating compute, and it should be part of the base system.
IBM also has a new 1.2 TB 2.5-inch SAS disk drive that spins at 10K RPM for AIX and Linux partitions or systems, which formats down to 1.14 TB for IBM i. This is a third more capacity than the current 900 GB (856 GB for IBM i) drives. The drive costs $1,500 on small, medium, and large Power Systems boxes, but costs $1,965 on the largest servers.
IBM is also introducing a flash-based PCI-Express card from its Texas Memory Systems acquisition, called the Flash Adapter 90. This is known as Feature ES09 in the IBM catalog, and it has 900 GB of eMLC flash This adapter has 325,000 IOPS of read speed and a latency of under 100 microseconds, according to IBM. That is about five times as fast as the double-wide RAID-SAS SSD combination in the Power Systems line. This flash adapter is currently only supported on Power 720+, Power 730+, and Power 740+ machines running AIX, but in the statement of direction in this announcement, Big Blue says that it will eventually support it on other Power7+ machines and with other operating systems. Linux was mentioned by name and IBM i was not. So you can hear me growling, right? The Flash Adapter 90 costs $13,499. So it might be out of the IBM i budget anyway.
Finally, IBM has a new PCI-Express 2.0 SAS disk and flash controller that burns less juice and costs less than the current model. Feature ESA3 is a three-port 6 Gb/sec has 1.8 GB of cache memory, just like the existing Feature 5913 SAS controller does. But it uses less electricity (thanks to a chip upgrade on the controller) and therefore dissipates about 20 percent less heat. It costs $7,200 on the small machines and $9,431 on the larger machines in the Power Systems lineup. It is supported on Power 720+, Power 740+, Power 770+, and Power 780+ machines. The Feature 5913 controller announced in October 2011 cost $7,500 on a Power 740 and $9,824 on the Power 780 that it was supported within when it debuted.