IBM Winds Down Older CPU And Memory Ahead Of Power8
January 20, 2014 Timothy Prickett Morgan
It is the new year, and Big Blue is prepping for the Power8 system launch as well as updates to the IBM i and sometime around the middle of the year. IBM likes to give customers plenty of warning when there is a maintenance price hike or when it will be withdrawing certain processors and features from the market, and last week it fired off the first announcement of 2014 that shows the company is gearing up for Power8.
Expect more announcements, perhaps better deals to encourage customers to move up to Power7+ machines rather than wait for the Power8 boxes, in the coming months. If IBM does not do such deals formally, and applied equally to all customers, you can rest assured that it will do such deals on an individual basis if the Power Systems deal is big enough. With Power Systems revenues in a serious slump in the second half of last year, there is no way Big Blue is not eager to push some iron here in the first quarter and into the second quarter. Every week we get closer to announcement day–whatever day that is–is a tougher week for IBM sales reps and business partners to close deals.
In announcement letter 914-009, IBM is warning customers that a slew of Power Systems features that were available with the Power6 generation of machines will be removed from the product catalog between now and the end of April. Different features are being removed at different times. IBM has also put out a statement of direction that yet more Power Systems features of the will be removed for Power6 and Power7 iron.
Happy Valentine’s Day, the DAT160 SAS tape drive is ripped from the catalog on February 14. So if you want this 80 GB tape drive to be yours, you best get a move on.
On March 31, IBM is withdrawing two 32 GB memory features (actually two 16 GB sticks) running at 1.07 GHz and 1.33 GHz, for the Flex x240 server node, and on June 27, the actual Flex x240 node (the original 7863-10X model) will be withdrawn. Other two-socket Flex nodes sporting Xeon processors are available, of course.
On April 25, a lot more Power Systems features get the axe, and significantly there are Power7 processors in this group of removed products. To be precise, the two-socket Power7 processor card for the Power 770 machine, which has six cores per chip running at 3.5 GHz, are dropped. So is the two-socket processor card that uses eight-core Power7 chips spinning at 3.1 GHz. The two-socket processor cards used in the Power 780 system, which are based on eight-core Power7 chips running at 3.86 GHz with a special 4.14 GHz Turbo Mode if you turn half the cores off, are also being removed.
A bunch of processor enablement and permanent activation features for systems based on the Power5 and Power5+ chips are also getting cut on April 25. These removals span from everything from the low-end Power5-based iSeries and pSeries 505, 510, and 520 machines from years gone by to the biggest Power 590 and 595 systems using Power5 and some Power6 chips. Look carefully through the list to see if your machine is on there. After these processor cards and CPU and main memory activation features are no longer available, you will be at the mercy of the relatively thin market in second-hand components if you need to add capacity.
And you are being forewarned by Big Blue that the same thing is going to happen with Power6 iron, too. So don’t get complacent. Here is the statement of direction that lays it out plain:
“It is IBM’s intention to withdraw from marketing those features that allow additional processor cores and memory DIMMs to be added to existing Power6-based servers. Those servers include the Power 595 (9119-FHA), Power 570 (9117-MMA), Power 560 (8234-EMA), Power 550 (8204-E8A), Power 520 (8203-E4A), System i 570 (9406-MMA), System i 550 (9409-M50), System i 520 (9408-M25), and the System i 520 (9407-M15). In addition, it is IBM’s intention to withdraw from marketing those features that allow the permanent activation of processor cores and memory that are currently installed but inactive on existing Power6-based servers. These new changes will take effect in the second half of 2014.”
So, you read it. You won’t be able to buy new Power6 memory and CPU features to add to your existing box, and even if your Power6 machine has latent cores and memory capacity that you have not activated, you won’t be able to pay to turn it on. As far as I know, this is new behavior from IBM on that latter bit. IBM always allowed you to turn on any latent capacity in the box provided you pay for it. But with Power Systems sales down in the range of 30 percent or so, IBM wants to push customers to get modern on shiny new iron.
IBM would, of course, prefer that customers sink their money into a new Power7+ system at the entry and midrange, and that may be the smart thing to do even with Power8 machines looming on the horizon. While the 12-core Power8 chips are expected to pack a nice CPW wallop, if you can get a good price on a Power7+ system today, you can end up with similar bang for the buck and still have a machine that will be able to support future IBM i release for years to come.