Entry Power8 Systems Get Express Pricing, Fat Memory
December 8, 2014 Timothy Prickett Morgan
The systems that IBM uses to make its product announcements like to play a bit of cat and mouse with all of us, and those of you who know me know that I check the system religiously to see if anything interesting has come out. Before the Thanksgiving Day holiday, Big Blue did make a bunch of IBM i-related announcements, but they did not show up on my account until after we had already put the December 1 edition of The Four Hundred to bed.
The important thing is that IBM has finally gotten around to providing Express Edition pricing on the entry Power S814 system that is the most likely machine that IBM i shops will acquire as they move off older iron. As we reported a few weeks ago, there are no upgrade paths from the Power 720 machines using Power7 chip and Power 720+ machines using the Power7+ chip into the Power S814 or Power S824 systems based on the Power8 chips, and not having Express Edition discounting made the move to these Power8 systems a little harder to justify to customers using older Power 520-class machines based on earlier Power5 through Power6+ systems. With the Power S814 Express Edition, it gets a little bit easier to make the case for the newer iron, but I suspect that there are plenty of customers who will go with a Power 720 or Power 720+ machine if they can get a great deal on it.
In announcement letter 114-196, you will find that IBM has created two different versions of the Power S814 IBM i Express Edition machines. The feature #EU2C variant of the IBM i Express Edition configuration goes with the four-core variant of the Power S814 system, which was announced in June quite a few months ahead of when it was expected. (In fact, IBM was telling business partners that it was not sure if it was going to do a four-core machines with a P05 software tier for IBM i. But after a few months of partners and customers no doubt complaining very loudly, IBM not only decided to do, but to do it several months early.) With that Express Edition license, customers have to buy a machine with at least the 16 GB base main memory configuration, designate IBM i or the Virtual I/O Server as the primary operating system, and have two storage devices attached to the machine. They can be two disk drives, two solid state drives, two Fibre Channel adapters, or two Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) adapters. (The latter supports the Fibre Channel protocol running atop 10 Gb/sec Ethernet adapters.) If customers order the Express Edition on the four-core Power S814 machine, they will get a license to five IBM i users (worth $1,250) at no charge, and IBM is also tossing in a license to IBM i Access Family (either the 5770-XW1 or 5761-XW1 editions). IBM will also bundle in reduced price licenses for Rational Developer for i for SOA Construction (5733-SOA) and either Rational Development Studio for i (5770-WDS) on IBM i 7.X machines or Rational Development Studio for i (5761-WDS) for IBM i 6.X machines. The amount of these discounts was not given in the announcement letter.
With feature #EU2D on the six-core Power S814, which is in the P10 software tier, all of the same rules apply and customers get the same software add-ons at a discount price as on the four-core Power S814. The only difference is that the six-core Power S814 machine comes with 30 IBM i user licenses added in for free, which is worth $7,500.
The Power S814 IBM i Express Edition machines were available on November 25.
IBM is not offering an IBM i Express Edition for the Power S814 equipped with eight cores, which is also in the P10 software tier. This is consistent with the prior Power 720 and Power 720+ Express Editions in the prior product line, but IBM should probably have done an eight-core variant as well just to make it all fair.
We will try to get our hands on the actual pricing of the Express Edition machines above and see how they compare to prior Express Edition iron and to plain vanilla, undiscounted machines.
IBM also made a few other announcements on November 25. First, that big fat 128 GB memory card that the company said earlier this year it would make available on the two-socket Power S824 is available starting December 9. The 128 GB memory card is not just available for the Power S824 system. This fat memory card is also available on the Power S812, Power S812L, Power S814, Power E870, and Power E880 systems.
The 128 GB card has the same architecture as the existing 16 GB, 32 GB, and 64 GB cards already used in the Power S824 system, including the on-card L4 cache memory implemented in the “Centaur” buffer chip on the memory card. (See Thanks For The Cheaper, Faster Memories from the June 9 edition of The Four Hundred for all of the details on the memory technology employed in the Power8 systems.) With the new feature #EM8E memory card, IBM can now deliver the 1 TB of memory per socket (with eight memory slots per socket) that it promised for its two-socket machines. This is the same capacity that IBM is offering on higher-end Power E870 and Power E880 machines, and will no doubt also be available on the four-socket Power8 system that IBM is expected to launch in early 2015 that I have already told you about. The fat memory card runs at the same 1.6 GHz speed as the skinnier ones, and considerably faster than the 1.07 GHz memory used with Power7+ systems.
The feature #EM8E memory card costs $10,625, which works out to $83 per GB. IBM’s list price for the 32 GB and 64 GB cards is $53 per GB, which works out to $1,700 and $3,400, respectively. IBM is charging $1,250 for its 16 GB memory card, which works out to $78 per GB and which also shows you that IBM has a pretty high cost in making these special memory cards but one that it believes is worth the cost and engineering to give the Power8 systems an edge over their Xeon rivals in Server Land. IBM can cram 2 TB of DDR3 memory in 16 slots within a two-socket machine that tops out at 16 total cores. The latest Intel Xeon E5-2600 v3 servers can have up to 24 memory slots in a two-socket machine, and it uses faster and cooler DDR4 memory. And while Intel can put anywhere from 8 to 36 cores in its two-socket machine, it can only support a maximum of 768 GB of main memory across those two sockets with a top-end 32 GB memory stick. Here’s the difference. If you look at the workhorse ProLiant DL380 Gen9 system from Hewlett-Packard, a 32 GB memory stick running at 2.13 GHz costs $750. IBM is charging $950 more for the Power8 memory card in the same capacity, and mostly because it has a unique interface, the Centaur buffer chip, and the L4 cache memory that is distributed across the memory cards.
We all really want to see how the difference in engineering with these Xeon E5 v3 and Power8 machines and their difference pricing matter where the rubber hits the road. I will start trolling for workloads and pricing. Thus far, the data has been a bit scarce, with server makers mostly abandoning the TPC-C online transaction processing benchmarks and taking their sweet time on other system-level tests that might help IT shops make better decisions.