New Power8 Midrange, PurePower Kicker To PureSystems
May 11, 2015 Timothy Prickett Morgan
IBM is hosting its Edge2015 Power and System z conference in Las Vegas this week, and with the System z13 mainframes already launched in January to help that ramp get underway and bolster the company’s hardware sales, that leaves the final rounding out of the Power Systems line with Power8 processors as the star of the show. As expected, IBM is indeed launching its Power E850 four-socket midrange system, complementing the Power E880 high-end system that IBM let fly early (for some reason) ahead of the event. IBM is also including a new preconfigured cluster called the PurePower System, something that supports Linux today and will support IBM i down the road.
The interesting bit about the Power E850, and this is something that we just learned from business partners and that IBM has confirmed to us, is that this four-socket box will not support the IBM i operating system. You heard that right. That doesn’t mean it won’t, especially if enough of you start squawking that you want the machine. If enough customers ask IBM to put IBM i on this box, then it will certainly do it–IBM likes to make money, after all.
The announcement letters for the Power E850 and PurePower System are not out yet as we go to press, so we don’t know all of the feeds and speeds and pricing for the machines. But here is what we do know. The Power E850 is essentially one four-socket node from a multi-node Power E870 (which has up to two nodes) or Power E880 (which has up to four nodes) with some of the redundant service processors and clocks removed to cut costs and because, frankly, customers using four-way servers do not want to pay a premium for these features like those using very large NUMA machines will. The Power E850 has a variety of different processor options, and supports up to 2 TB of main memory across its four sockets with a promise from IBM to support 4 TB maximum. Steve Sibley, director of worldwide product management for IBM’s Power Systems line, tells The Four Hundred that this expanded memory could come either at the end of this year or early next year and that IBM is still working out the plan. Because IBM is cramming four Power8 sockets into the same 4U of space that it uses on the Power S824 two-socket machine, there is not a lot of thermal room in the box. And so the Power8 clock speeds in the Power E850 are a bit slower than in the Power S824 and in the Power E870 as well, which comes in a larger 6U enclosure per node.
Here is a nice chart showing how the Power E850 slides in underneath the Power E870 and the enhanced Power E880:
Notice how the Power E850 is classified as an enterprise-class system and not a midrange box like the Power 550 and Power 750 machines before it? That is because IBM is supporting Capacity Upgrade On Demand (CUOD) processor upgrades on this machine like it has done with other enterprise-class machines. The Power Integrated Facility for Linux, which means a lower price for hardware, is also supported on the machine to make the Power-Linux combination more competitive with the Xeon-Linux alternative out there in ServerLand.
Sibley says that in terms of raw integer performance, a Power E850 will deliver somewhere between 5 percent and 10 percent more oomph than a four-socket machine based on Intel‘s new “Haswell-EX” Xeon E7 v3 processors that were announced last week and that I reported on in-depth at The Platform. IBM is providing Power E850 customers with a guarantee that they can run the systems at 70 percent utilization, and it is not clear what customers get if they can’t, but that is the first time I have heard of such a thing. Pricing between a Haswell Xeon E7 v3 system and a Power E850 is expected to be about the same, after the IFL configuration discounting, according to Sibley. Pricing was still in flux as we went to press and we will get you the details as soon as they settle down. The point is, with the utilization guarantee factored in for virtualized environments, IBM thinks it can demonstrate something more like a 30 percent to 40 percent bang for the buck advantage compared to a virtualized Xeon E7 v3 server. (All the more reason to have IBM i running on it, I say. . . but I will get into that in next week’s issue after I see what this machine costs for real.)
Here is where the Power E850 slides in between the two-socket and eight-socket machines in the Power Systems line:
The Power E850 has twice as much memory as the Power 750 it replaces in the midrange, cramming 32 memory slots into the chassis; it also has eight PCI-Express 3.0 x16 slots and three PCI-Express 3.0 x8 slots jammed into the system. The machine has room for eight 2.5-inch drives and four 1.8-inch SSDs as well. IBM is offering an eight-core Power8 running at 3.7 GHz, a 10-core Power8 running at 3.3 GHz, and a twelve-core Power8 running at 3 GHz as options. It is unclear if these are single-chip modules, as are used in the Power E870 and Power E880, or dual-chip modules, which are used in the various two-socket machines in the Power8 line. (The difference comes down to I/O and memory bandwidth.)
The Power E850 will be available as an SAP HANA Solution Edition, similar to the Power S824 and Power E870 setups that we told you about last week.
The details on the PurePower System were a little thin ahead of the launch, but here is what we know. It will be comprised of Power S822 nodes (which support AIX or Linux) or Power S822L nodes (which only support Linux), initially running Red Hat Enterprise Linux. But Sibley says that SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and Canonical Ubuntu Server will eventually be supported. IBM is using Storwize V7000 storage arrays in the PurePower System clusters to start, and interestingly has a stack of management software based on the OpenStack cloud controller, the PowerVM hypervisor, the PowerVC security software, and the open source Nagios configuration management tool running the whole shebang–not Flex System Manager, the tool from its modular system that is now part of Lenovo Group. Sibley says that there will eventually be an IBM i variant of the PurePower System, and IBM will switch to less expensive Storwize V3500 arrays for that and possibly to Power S824 nodes, which are already certified to run IBM i. The decision on the nodes has not yet been made.
We will know more once the announcements come out, so stay tuned. And we will share our thoughts about not supporting IBM i on the Power E850 as well. It may be a difference that makes no difference, but what I know is that I need to cool off before I write because my gut reaction is one of, shall we call it, annoyance.