IBM Upgrades High-End And Low-End Power8 Machines
May 4, 2015 Timothy Prickett Morgan
In last week’s issue, we told you that IBM was working on rounding out the Power8-based Power Systems lineup with a four-socket midrange machine rumored to be called the Power E850 and that it was also expected to expand the high-end Power E880 line with its full complement of Power8 processors. We didn’t expect hardware announcements at the COMMON midrange conference in Anaheim, but on Tuesday last week Big Blue went and put out some of the new Power8 iron anyway without doing a formal announcement.
Specifically, in announcement letter 115-021, IBM has added some processor options for low-end, scale-out versions of the Power S822 and Power S822L machines as well as boosting memory on the Power S814 and Power S824L machines. IBM has also boosted memory on the existing Power E870 enterprise-class machine, and has finally divulged the processor options for the largest of its top-end Power E880 machines, which have been unknown since these big systems were delivered as kickers to the Power 770, Power 780, and Power 795 machines that date from as long as five years ago.
Here are the basic feeds and speeds of the Power E870 and Power E880 as they are fully fleshed out:
Note: In the chart above, where it says * 8GB with an asterisk, it means to say 8 TB. (Sometimes I can’t believe TB real, either, and it will not be long before EB memories are normal, and that just looks weird as hell to me.)
The top-end Power E880 is not available with a 12-core processor that delivers 192 cores running across its four NUMA-linked nodes, each of which has four sockets. These twelve-core Power8 chips are true single-chip implementations with a dozen cores, not two six-core chips sharing a socket; the cores run at 4.02 GHz. Each of the four nodes in the system has 32 memory slots, which have a total of 4 TB of memory per node. Each node has eight PCI-Express x16 slots, which delivers a pretty impressive 256 GB/sec of I/O bandwidth out of the back-end. Quadruple those statistics to a 16 TB of main memory and 32 slots with 1 TB/sec of I/O bandwidth for the four-node Power E880. This is a hefty chunk of big iron, by any measure you want to think of. That main memory is made possible by IBM’s special 128 GB memory cards, which use its “Centaur” memory buffer chip for the Power8 architecture. If you use these fat memory cards in the Power E880, you have to slow the memory bus a bit to let it run a bit cooler.
Here’s another easy way to envision the top-end of the Power8 lineup:
Obviously, customers have to be careful about the interplay of memory capacities, clock speeds, and core counts as they look at different options in the Power E870 and Power E880 machine. Customers who pay per-core prices for application software have to be extra careful.
I poked around to try to get some performance information on the updated and expanded Power E880, and this is all that I can find so far:
This table is reckoned in the Relative Performance (rPerf) online transaction processing benchmark test that Big Blue uses to gauge the relative performance of AIX and Linux workloads. I will try to hunt down the CPW figures for these machines so you can see how RPG and DB2 for i workloads stack up, but I expect for the same rule to generally apply. And that is, a Power E880 with 128 cores is roughly the same performance as a Power 795 with 256 cores, and that a Power E880 running with 192 cores will yield about 40 percent aggregate performance as the Power 795. (No IBM i workload can scale across more than 128 cores, and benchmark tests tend to use 64 core logical partitions on the big iron anyway, both for IBM i and AIX workloads.)
At the low-end of the Power Systems lineup, IBM has added an eight-core Power8 chip running at 4.1 GHz to the Power S822; the prior chips available in this system ran at 3.4 GHz and 3.8 GHz. The Power S822 system using this faster 4.1 GHz Power8 processor can only support 16 GB or 32 GB memory features (no 64 GB modules allowed) and therefore it tops out at 512 GB of main memory. (The extra heat has to be compensated for somehow.) IBM has also expanded the main memory on the Power S814 and Power S824L up to a maximum of 2 TB using its 128 GB memory card. The Power S824L is now also available with an eight-core processor running at 4.15 GHz or a twelve-core processor running at 3.52 GHz. (Both of those are really dual-chip modules that have four or six cores on each half that share the same package.)
The new Power E880 and scale-out Power Systems processor options will be available on June 5. I am hunting down pricing now.