Sundry Fall Power Systems Peripheral Enhancements
November 7, 2016 Timothy Prickett Morgan
We are still chewing through the October 11 Power Systems announcements, and this week we drill down into a variety of peripheral enhancements related to the IBM i platform. We may not have gotten new Power8+ processors for entry machines, and would have been expected sometime this year, but IBM is doing a bunch of things to make the existing Power8 machines more appealing and less costly to tide itself and its customers over until the Power9 processors ship sometime in the second half of next year.
The midrange and high-end of the Power8 product line have already seen their enhancements with the C-style machines, and as we previously reported, with the shift to DDR4 memory technology that is happening this fall, Big Blue is also passing through some lower memory costs to Power Systems customers. The October 11 announcements had a bunch of other additional things, which individually might not mean much but which add up when taken together. These were outlined in announcement letter 116-088.
Starting at the low end, IBM is cutting prices on 283 GB SAS disk drives used in the single-socket Power S814 server. These 15K RPM drives are 2.5-inch units, and they come in 4 kilobyte or 512/520 byte formats (the latter used for AIX and IBM i). The new disks are feature #ESFG (4 KB), which costs $595 or $2.10 per GB, down from $720 for feature ESFA, which is the same drive but with a higher $720 price tag, which works out to $2.54 per GB. Feature ESDV, which comes in the 5XX byte format, costs $665 for the same drive under the new pricing, or $2.35 per GB, compared to the price of $790, or $2.79 per GB, with the prior drive. These lower-priced disks are intended to be used with the Power S814 IBM i Express Edition, which has a maximum of four or six cores that can be activated and they cannot be used in expansion enclosures; moreover, you cannot buy more than four of them on these machines. The upshot is the base disks in the box cost $500 less.
On the Power S822, customers running IBM i 7.1 TR 11 or later or IBM i 7.2 TR3 or later or the new IBM i 7.3 can now allocate as many as four cores to a single IBM i logical partition, which is double the number of cores that were allocated for partitions on the machine previously. All of the I/O on the machine still has to be virtualized, but moving up to larger partitions and more cores does not shift customers up from a P05 software tier to a P10 software tier.
Further on the storage front, IBM has introduced two new enclosures to expand the storage capacity of Power Systems, the EXP12SX and the EXP24SX. Here are their basic feeds and speeds:
The EXP12SX is designed for fatter 3.5-inch drives and for nearline and archival uses as well as for big data analytics where cheap capacity is more important than I/O throughput. IBM has two new disk drives that work in EXP12SX enclosure, and both support bare metal AIX and Linux or the Virtual I/O Server (VIOS) for attachment to AIX or IBM i; they come in 7.2K RPM speeds and capacities of 3.86 TB and 7.72 TB. The EXP12SX only supports 4 KB formatted drives, and it cannot host flash-based SSDs. But the EXP12S has double the capacity of the prior EXP24S disk enclosure, and although the performance is a lot lower because it is using nearly drives, the cost per unit of capacity is somewhere between 16 percent and 19 percent of the cost of capacity on the EXP24S, and maintenance costs over three years are about a third lower, too. The bandwidth is twice as high on the EXP12S, too.
Here is a pricing comparison that makes the change in price for a configured machine clear:
It is a pity that IBM i machines can’t use this EXP12SX directly.
IBM’s rule of thumb for the EXP12SX enclosure is that customers should never try to run transaction processing workloads on these drives, but should rather depend on faster 15K RPM SAS drives or flash-based SSDs. IBM also suggests that customers have RAID data protection (RAID 6 is preferred) and hot spares on top of that because build times are very, very long on fat drives.
With the EXP24SX enclosure, the capacity stays the same as with the prior EXP24S, and it has about the same list price, too, loaded up. But the maintenance price is cut nearly in half, and the drive I/O performance is slightly higher, with again about twice the bandwidth into and out of the box.
IBM is only supporting 2.5-inch storage in the EXP24SX, including 387 GB, 775 GB, 1.55 TB, and 1.9 TB flash SSDs based on eMLC4 technology. (eMLC3 and earlier flash drives are not supported.) IBM allows for 283 GB and 571 GB drives spinning at 15K RPM to be used, but not 139 GB units, and for 10K RPM speeds, 571 GB, 1.1 TB, and 1.7 TB drives can work in it, but not 283 GB or 870 GB drives. 5XX byte sector formats are not supported, but IBM knows this is a requirement, but has not put out a statement of direction committing to this. Only 4 KB drive formats are supported in the EXP24SX enclosure.